Rescue crews across Southern California have been tirelessly working around the clock to find at least five people missing and feared dead in the deadly mudslides.
At least 17 people have been killed when heavy rainfall on Tuesday triggered landslides on the hillsides of Santa Barbara, turning the picturesque neighbourhood into a hellish nightmare.
Officials have confirmed that at least 43 people are still unaccounted for as of Thursday night.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown likened the scenes he saw to the mud trenches of a World War One battlefield.
He said: “Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident.”
Since Tuesday, rescue crews and their sniffer dogs have been pictured wading through waist-high mud, massive boulders and the dangerous debris of destroyed homes and overturned trees.
A particularly heartbreaking picture snapped in Montecito shows emergency personnel wrestling to pull a young woman caked in mud from the remnants of her home.
Elsewhere a rescue group was seen carrying dogs and children through a flowing stream of mud.
Garrett Speirs, 54-year-old artist and Montecito resident of 20 years, said the mudslide wiped out everything in its path.
California mudslides: Rescue crews and sniffer dogs tirelessly search for trapped residents
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He said: “We have a yard to redo and hopefully our insurance will help out with that, but the people across from me, newer homes, gone.
“Everybody down below gone, two girls gone. Two sixth graders in the school our kids went to.”
A house in San Ysidro Creek near East Valley Road was left completely wrecked after the hillside mud and boulders brought it down to its foundations.
Nearby on Glen Oaks Lane, local Teresa Drenick was photographed wading through what used to be the lounge in her missing sister’s home.
US Coast Guard video stills also reveal the harrowing ordeal of a family of five fleeing to the safety of their house’s roof.
County officials have now warned the residents of Montecito’s southeastern corner to flee their homes for the next week or two.
Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident
Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokeswoman Amber Anderson said on Friday: “We need people out, because they’re really hampering our efforts for not only the rescue, but for the cleanup.”
An incoming dry spell is expected to aid the cleanup effort according to AccuWeather, but the amount of damage caused will be hard to recover from.
Aerial photographs captured by a Ventura County Sheriff helicopter show just how wide reaching the effects of the landslides are.
California mudslides: Tonnes of mud and rocks swept in from the Santa Barbara hillsides
California mudslides: Several families desperately climbed their roofs to avoid the rushing mud
California mudslides: Hundreds of homes were destroyed and affected by the natural disaster
The immediate evacuation zones were people have been killed have been extended on Thursday.
More than 100 residential buildings have been swept away by the mud, with the homes of TV personality Oprah Winfrey and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres also affected. Another 300 are estimated to have been damaged.
The mudslides began in the early morning hours on Tuesday when intense rainfall dislodged tons of soil and boulders on the hillsides of Santa Barbara.
The raging wildfire which swept through California last year, known as Thomas Fire, is believed to have intensified the mudslide by altering the makeup of the hillside ground into a loose mix of boulders and soil.