These photos show how Southern California has been devastated by mudslides that killed at least 18 people

A section of the Union Pacific Railroad is blocked by debris after a mudslide in Montecito, California.

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A section of the Union Pacific Railroad is blocked by debris after a mudslide in Montecito, California.
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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

At least 18 people have died from massive mudslides in a wealthy Southern California region, according to local authorities.

A heavy storm on Tuesday triggered flash floods and unleashed debris in Montecito, Santa Barbara, around 2:30 a.m. local time, the LA Times reported.

As Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters on Tuesday night: “The best way I can describe it is it looked like a World War One battlefield.”

Rescue crews with dogs and scanners were still looking for at least 5 people missing on Friday, Reuters reported. One hundred single-family homes were also destroyed and hundreds of other buildings were reportedly damaged.

“We’ve got a window that’s closing, but we’re still very optimistic,” Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said. “There’s been plenty of cases where they’ve found people a week after.”

Take a look at the harrowing scenes below.


A heavy storm in the region triggered flash floods and unleashed debris. The region was especially vulnerable after a series of wildfires. This smashed car on Montecito’s Hot Springs Road, is a small part of of the destruction in the area.


Trees were torn from their roots, houses and cars were destroyed, and people were covered in mud as debris surged down empty streets. This woman was caught up in the chaos, and had to be rescued from a collapsed house.

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Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via Reuters

As of Wednesday, at least 28 people were injured because of the storm.

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Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via Reuters

A damaged house is surrounded by large boulders and debris.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Reuters

Firefighters dug through mud searching for bodies.

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Daniel Dreifuss/Reuters

Family members inspect a home covered in mud.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Reuters

Here, a search dog looks for victims inside a damaged house.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

People’s cars got smashed in by fallen trees, which were knocked in the wind and mud flows.


Rescue workers search in and around cars for missing persons.

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Kyle Grillot/Reuters

Debris flowed into car parks. The car on the left, covered in debris, is floating on a mixture of mud and water.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

Some cars were left floating along flooded freeways, while emergency services did their best to get to affected areas.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

This sunken area of road was totally filled with mud and, making it impossible to pass.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

The Union Pacific Railroad — which operates routes from Chicago to New Orleans — was also blocked by mud.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout/Reuters

Train tracks between Santa Barbara and Oxnard, a city west of Los Angeles, were closed, Amtrak’s Southern California service tweeted on Tuesday night.


Locals did their best to get around despite all the obstacles.

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Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/Handout

Oprah Winfrey, who owns a house in Montecito, shared footage of the mud and helicopter rescuers.

Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Lowe and Patrick Stewart also live in the wealthy Santa Barbara area.


These aerial images show how bad the scene looked from above.


The Ventura County Aviation Unit shared this video of a rescue mission, where one of its air squads located a victim who was swept away in their car.


Search and rescue operations continued through the night. Some agencies are planning more aerial operations, like the one below, in the morning to get more trapped people out of their homes.