In Brief

California mudslides kill 13

163 people have been hospitalised and the death toll is expected to rise

At least 13 people are dead after heavy rains in southern California triggered flooding and mudslides which have destroyed dozens of homes.

Local officials say 163 people have been transported to hospital, with four in critical condition, while a number of people remain unaccounted for.

The mudslide struck around 2:30am local time after a heavy band of rain arrived, sending “mud and massive boulders rolling into residential neighbourhoods”, the LA Times says. Rainfall rates in some of the affected areas were reportedly as high as 40mm per hour.

Most of the deaths are believed to have occurred in Montecito, a “wealthy enclave that is home to such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres”, The Guardian says.

The affected area in Santa Barbara County, was recently the scene of the state’s largest ever wildfire, which burnt off much of the vegetation, leaving the region susceptible to flooding and mudslides.

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

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the destruction “looked like a World War I battlefield”, and warned that the death toll is expected to rise.

The BBC reports that up to 300 people remain trapped in Romero Canyon, east of Santa Barbara, and that more than 48 kilometres of the main coastal highway remain closed by mud and debris.

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