Death toll in California mudslides rises to 17

WATCH: Video Shows Teen Being Rescued by Firefighters From California Mudslide

Heavy rains unleashed deadly mudslides Tuesday that damaged or swept away dozens of homes in Southern California.

Hundreds of rescue workers continued to search through mud and search dogs climbed atop debris to rescue residents trapped inside homes or stuck in ankle-deep muck. With the wildfires leaving behind a waxy layer of debris that made it hard for water to infiltrate the ground, the downpour caused flash floods in the fire-scarred Santa Ynez Mountains.

"The correct number of missing is down to eight", Mike Eliason, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told Xinhua in a phone interview.

Helicopters were used to pluck more than 50 people from rooftops after downed trees and power lines blocked roads. "While we hope it will not, we expect that this number will increase as we continue to look for people who are still missing and unaccounted for", the sheriff said at a press conference on Wednesday.

At least thirteen people have been killed after a powerful rainstorm triggered flash flooding and catastrophic mudslides in southern California. Montecito and Carpinteria were the towns most devastated by the mudslides, according to Amber Anderson, a spokesperson with the Santa Barbara County Incident Management Team, per the Washington Post. "Debris is everywhere", Winfrey says in one of the videos.

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McElroy said even though the impact was technically in Santa Barbara County, "this is a Santa Barbara tragedy".

"Right now our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged", Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said. The video below shows rescuers helping a driver whose vehicle was swept away by the mud.

Last month's spate of wildfires, including the largest in California history, not only burned away grass and shrubs that held soil in place, but also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground.

"I came around the house and heard a deep rumbling, an ominous sound that I knew was the boulders moving as the mud was rising", he said.

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