Twenty dead as search for California mudslide survivors grinds on

Debris and mud cover the street in front of local area shops after heavy rain brought flash flooding on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 in Montecito, California At least five people were killed and homes were swept from their foundations Tuesday as heavy rain sent mud and boulders sliding down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California last month. (Daniel Dreifuss)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Twenty dead as search for California mudslide survivors grinds on

LOS ANGELES: The search for survivors of the deadly mudslides in parts of California’s Santa Barbara County continued Sunday even as hopes dwindled to find anyone alive, officials said.
“We’re still in rescue mode and we still hope to find someone alive, although the chances of that are becoming slim,” said Justin Cooper, a spokesperson for the multi-agency response team.
The death toll rose to 20 on Sunday with four people still missing, Cooper said.
Another 900 emergency personnel arrived this weekend to join the relief effort conducted by more than 2,100 personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and the American Red Cross.
The ramped-up rescue effort is in response to urgent requests for additional manpower made earlier in the week.
Heavy rains on Tuesday soaked the area near Montecito, north of Los Angeles, where vegetation had been stripped away by the largest wildfire in California’s history last month.
Sodden hillsides gave way, unleashing a torrent of mud, water, uprooted trees and boulders onto the valley below and killing people aged 3 to 89.
The destruction covered 30 square miles (78 square km), according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and forced the partial closure of one of California’s most celebrated coastal roads, the heavily used Highway 101.
Officials ordered residents in most of the southeastern corner of Montecito, which is east of Santa Barbara, to leave their homes for what was likely to be one or two weeks.
Many fled to nearby Carpinteria, where local resident Tessa Nash said they were communicating via a Facebook page called Carpinteria Swap, which is usually focused on buying and selling secondhand goods.
In the last few days, Nash said, it has been carrying information about community-led blood drives and transportation tips.
“We’re really joined together,” she said. “We’re affected here in Carpinteria in the sense that we’re taking these people in and a lot of people are out of work because they can’t travel. It’s a trickle down effect.”


South Sudan foes in new peace talks to end deadly war

Updated 36 min 19 sec ago
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South Sudan foes in new peace talks to end deadly war

  • A first round brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Thursday failed to achieve any breakthrough
  • The war has killed tens of thousands of people and driven about four million others from their homes

KHARTOUM: South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and arch-foe Riek Machar were set to hold a new round of peace talks Monday after a first meeting last week faltered.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is hosting in Khartoum the second round of talks between the two bitter rivals, aimed at ending South Sudan’s four-and-a-half year brutal civil war.
A first round brokered by Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Thursday failed to achieve any breakthrough.
Regional East African leaders have launched new efforts to secure peace in South Sudan where warring factions face a looming deadline to avert UN sanctions.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and driven about four million others from their homes.
It erupted after Kiir fell out with his then deputy Machar in December 2013, dashing the optimism that accompanied independence of South Sudan just two years earlier from Sudan.
“In this round of talks we are looking for a breakthrough to this thorny issue,” Sudanese Foreign Minister Al-Dierdiry Ahmed told reporters on Sunday.
Kiir and Machar’s meeting in Addis Ababa was their first face-to-face encounter in nearly two years.
Their meeting in Khartoum will be the first since fighting erupted in South Sudan.
It comes after South Sudan’s government declared that it “had enough” of Machar, dashing hopes of any breakthrough at the Addis Ababa talks.
“As the people of South Sudan, not the president alone, but as the people of South Sudan, we are saying enough is enough,” South Sudanese government spokesman Michael Makuei said Friday.
Makuei rejected Machar’s presence in any transitional government but did not rule out the involvement of other rebel figures.
His remarks show the personal enmity between Kiir and Machar, that lies at the heart of the conflict, is as strong as ever.
Before the start of talks in Ethiopia, Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group had also dismissed the latest peace efforts as “unrealistic.”
South Sudan descended into civil war after Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him, sparking violence between the two factions that was fueled by brooding ethnic tensions.
Since a 2015 peace deal collapsed in July 2016 with Machar fleeing to South Africa, Kiir’s government has gained the upper hand militarily as the opposition has splintered into a myriad of factions.
Initially largely fought out between South Sudan’s two largest ethnic groups — Kiir’s Dinka and Machar’s Nuer — smaller groups have since spawned their own militias raising question marks about the ability of either leader to halt the war.
In May, the UN Security Council gave the two warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face sanctions.
A landlocked state with a large ethnic mix, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and brutal war.