California mudslides: Searchers find man's body, up death toll to 18


On the fourth day of the treacherous search for victims of mudslides in Southern California, emergency workers found the body of an 87-year-old man in his house, authorities said.

The grim discovery came around noon on a day in which searchers were going through damaged and destroyed homes, sometimes for a second time.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Joseph Bleckel had been on the missing list but still the number of people unaccounted is five.

It was six at the beginning of an afternoon news conference, but someone called in to say one of the men on the list was at a hospital.

Emergency workers on the ground have doubled since Thursday, with about 1,250 trying to find and rescue those still trapped, Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson said.

The mudslides, which came in the early morning hours of Tuesday, killed at least 18 people and destroyed dozens of homes. Those killed ranged in age from 3 to 89, and all lived in Montecito in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said.

Rescuers have searched frantically for the missing after rivers of mud and boulders flooded through neighborhoods in and near Montecito, an affluent seaside community east of Santa Barbara, demolishing homes and leaving roads impassable.

“In disaster circumstances, there have been many miraculous stories of people lasting many days. We certainly are searching for a miracle right now,” Brown said Thursday.

“But realistically we suspect that we are going to continue to have discovery of people who were killed in this incident.”

Evacuation zone increased

The immediate areas where people were killed are under mandatory evacuation, and officials increased the size of the evacuation zone Thursday.

“We know that this a terribly inconvenient development, but it is also incredibly necessary,” Brown said.

“This entire area is a very active rescue and recovery and repair zone right now,” he said.

He said the zone, which includes areas formerly under voluntary evacuation advisories, would be in effect for one week but that residents should plan for two.

Rescue workers are using helicopters and all-terrain vehicles in a search hampered by blocked roads and downed trees and power lines.

Billy Grokenberger lives in a part of Montecito that was under a voluntary evacuation order. He and his parents put belongings in three cars in case they decided to leave before the storm. They didn’t.

“We had thought about leaving, but we had…



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