20 Dead in Post-Thomas Fire Mudslides

At least twenty people have died and dozens more are injured as a result of mudslides brought on by heavy rains in Santa Barbara County. The death toll is expected to rise as crews continue searching for survivors among the wreckage.

"It looked like a World War I battlefield," said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown of all the mud, fallen boulders, and downed trees. 

Around 7,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes Tuesday. Another 23,000 were encouraged to evacuate voluntarily.

A spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said only 10 to 15 percent of residents complied with the order. For many, it was the second evacuation order they had received in less than a month.

The area is recovering from catastrophic wildfires that hit the region last month. The scorched vegetation has exacerbated the problem as recently-burned areas are far less able to absorb the water, contributing to mudslides.

"It's going to be worse than anyone imagined for our area," said Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason. "Following our fire, this is the worst-case scenario."

This article has been updated to reflect the growing number of confirmed fatalities. 


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