California mudslides death toll reaches 15

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Mud and debris on a road in Montecito after heavy flooding in Southern California. (AP)
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Long Beach Search and Rescue looks for survivors in a car in Montecito, California (Daniel Dreifuss)
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US 101 freeway at the Olive Mill Road overpass is flooded with runoff water from Montecito Creek in Montecito, California (AP)
Updated 11 January 2018
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California mudslides death toll reaches 15

LOS ANGELES: The death toll from devastating mudslides unleashed by a ferocious storm in southern California rose to 15 Wednesday as rescuers scoured the debris of demolished homes for survivors and bodies.
Between 12 and 24 people who were believed to in the area at the time of the slides remained unaccounted for, said Chris Elms, a spokesman for state firefighters. About 500 law enforcement officers and firefighters were combing mud-covered neighborhoods, using dogs, helicopters and thermal imaging equipment to locate missing people.
A rainstorm sent rivers of waist-high mud and debris flowing from the hills into the affluent Santa Barbara County community of Montecito early Tuesday — ravaging swaths of land scorched by the Thomas fire last month.
Floodwater overwhelmed the south-facing slopes above the town of 9,000, northwest of Los Angeles, bursting the banks of a creek and sending massive rocks rolling into homes, according to emergency services.

“The sheriff’s office can confirm 15 fatalities but is not able to provide additional details at this time,” a spokesman for the county department said on its Twitter feed.
At least 25 other people were injured, authorities said, while first responders were able to airlift around 50 residents and rescue dozens more from the ground. About 300 people were also stranded in a canyon. Local rescue crews, using borrowed helicopters from the US Coast Guard, worked to airlift them out, officials said.
“Currently we are working to identify people who might still be trapped and isolated in areas that we have not been able to gain complete access to,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told CBS’s “This Morning.”
“We worked through the night and I’m happy to say we managed to get to some folk trapped in homes but otherwise safe.”
He said that there was no way of telling how many people were still trapped, adding that some people had ignored evacuation orders.
“I think most people are shocked at the extent of the damage and how big the impact was to the area. Although we knew this was coming, you couldn’t help but be amazed at the intensity of the storm and the result of the mudslide and the water that cascaded down the hills.”
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department said on its Twitter feed Tuesday it was using dogs to look for victims where multiple homes once stood in Montecito following the heavy rain.
Officials have ordered residents in a large swath of Montecito to stay in their homes so that rescuers can better go about their work.
The department posted pictures of rivers of mud flowing through neighborhoods, with homes collapsed, cars smashed up and turned onto their roofs and roads rendered impassible by fallen trees.
Roads were clogged throughout the region with mudflows shutting down more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) of the 101 Freeway on Tuesday and knocking a number of homes from their foundations.
Mudslides damaged historic hotels and the homes of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, who relish the area sandwiched between the ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, for its natural beauty and proximity to sprawling Los Angeles.
Winfrey posted a video on Instagram showing her wading through nearly knee-deep mud on her Montecito property.
“The house in back is gone,” she could be heard saying as she inspected the damage.

A post shared by Oprah (@oprah) on


Television personality Ellen DeGeneres, who owns a home in the upscale Montecito community, posted a photo on Twitter of a roadway choked with mud and brown water.
“This is not a river,” DeGeneres wrote on Twitter. “This is the 101 freeway in my neighborhood right now. Montecito needs your love and support.”


The highest rainfall total was recorded at five inches (13 centimeters) in Ventura County, according to the National Weather Service Los Angeles.
Much of the affected area is land scorched by the massive Thomas fire several weeks ago, the second-largest wildfire in California’s history, where there is no vegetation to soak up the excess water.
A evacuation order was issued in a section of the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank, which was hit by a mudslide that pulled cars out of driveways and carried them downstream.
The slide also caused a “significant” gas leak, and repair efforts left homes on the street with no gas, electricity or water.
“There were many homes, about 40 to 45 homes, affected by it, a couple homes damaged,” Burbank Fire Department Battalion Chief John Owings told local TV news channel KCAL9.
“We performed two physical rescues at approximately 7 o’clock this morning.”
At Los Angeles International Airport, flooding forced the closure of the customs area in Terminal 2.
The rain was lighter in the desert than in coastal areas, but the downpour shattered a January 9 Palm Springs record of 1.13 inches set in 1980, according to the weather service.
The rain had all but vanished by Tuesday evening, but mandatory evacuations were still in place across the region due to the threat of additional mudslides.
“Any additional rain is going to push more mud down,” Owings said.
The storm came after a 10-month dry spell following torrential rains in January and February of last year.


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.