Mud­slide stricken Cal­i­for­nia town is all but emp­tied out

The Western Star - - WORLD -

Most res­i­dents of mud­slid­er­av­aged Montecito were un­der or­ders to clear out Fri­day as the search for vic­tims dragged on and crews laboured to clean up the muck and re­pair power, wa­ter and gas lines.

Even those who didn’t lose their homes in the disas­ter that left at least 17 peo­ple dead were told to leave for up to two weeks so they wouldn’t in­ter­fere with the res­cue and re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion in the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia town of 9,000.

It was an­other frus­trat­ing turn for those liv­ing in Montecito, a town that has been un­der siege and sub­ject to re­peated evac­u­a­tion or­ders in re­cent weeks, first be­cause of a mon­ster wild­fire last month, then be­cause of down­pours and mud­slides.

Cia Mon­roe said her fam­ily of four was lucky their home wasn’t ru­ined and they were all healthy and safe, though her daugh­ter lost one of her best friends.

But Mon­roe said it was stress­ful af­ter evac­u­at­ing three times dur­ing the wild­fire to be pack­ing up a fourth time and look­ing at spend­ing up to $3,000 a week for a ho­tel.

“Fi­nan­cially that’s a bur­den,’’ she said.

A fleet of large trucks and heavy equip­ment rolled into town Thurs­day, and the forces on the ground swelled to more than 1,200 work­ers.

Five peo­ple re­mained miss­ing Fri­day.

Santa Bar­bara County Sher­iff Bill Brown said res­i­dents who had stayed be­hind or tried to check on dam­age in neigh­bour­hoods where homes were lev­elled and car-size boul­ders and trees blocked roads and lit­tered prop­er­ties were hin­der­ing the re­cov­ery ef­fort.

Brown ex­panded what was known as the ex­clu­sion zone to in­cor­po­rate most of the town. That meant that even those who had stayed be­hind would have to leave and those who en­tered the zone would be sub­ject to ar­rest.

While the town is best known as a getaway for the rich and fa­mous _ the me­dian home price among cur­rent list­ings is more than $ 4 mil­lion _ there are also work­ing fam­i­lies liv­ing in mod­est houses and apart­ments.

With most util­i­ties out of com­mis­sion or about to be cut off, stay­ing be­hind was not re­ally an op­tion for many.

Sarah Ettman’s home was un­dam­aged, and her sec­tion of town still had gas and elec­tric­ity, even though nearby Romero Creek was choked with cars, trees and rocks.

AP PHOTO

Emer­gency crew mem­bers search an area dam­aged by storms in Montecito, Calif., Fri­day, Jan. 12, 2018. The num­ber of miss­ing af­ter a Cal­i­for­nia mud­slide has fluc­tu­ated wildly, due to shift­ing def­i­ni­tions, the in­her­ent un­cer­tainty that fol­lows a nat­u­ral...

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