Window closing' for California mudslide searchers as death toll rises to 18

Rescue crews have expanded their search for five missing people as the death toll rose to 18 from Southern California mudslides that damaged hundreds of buildings and caked highways with sludge.

Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slides struck before dawn on Tuesday, local time.

More than two full days after mudslides ravaged the coastal town of Montecito, the search for the missing became an increasingly desperate exercise Thursday, with growing doubts about whether anyone would be found alive. REBECCA RISKIN, 61:Riskin was a real estate agent and founder of Riskin Partners. "It's devastating. We've lost so many lives and it's a tiny community and nobody would've expected, certainly, I did not, that after we survived the fires and the rain came". "I live there, Oprah lives there". McTigue said the area's steep canyons also played a role, as torrential rainfall had nowhere to go except off the hillside and into the Montecito community.

The cause of death for all 17 will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff's office said in a statement.

The oldest victim swept away in a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had celebrated his 89th birthday the day before. Jim worked in labor relations, and Alice was a schoolteacher.

"My sister was such a good person, she only thought of others to the point that she would cry with you when you were hurt or sick", said Ramos' sister, Jennifer Ramos.

The Benitez brothers are gardeners.

"Some rescues have been gut-wrenching: firefighters pushed through wait-high mud to reach a 14-year-old girl caked in mud from head to toe", Karson reports.

Antonio and Victor are Mexican immigrants who own a Montecito garden and landscaping business. Tige said he was checking the downspouts of his home around 3:30 a.m. when the storm picked up.

Turns out, there was a gas fire as well as the mudslides.

Marco Farrell, recorded the deluge of brown, muddy water come crashing past his home, dragging debris from destroyed houses and cars with it.

Mark Montgomery's son Duffy, 20, was also sleeping in the house. She is believed to have died along with her pet dog.

His house was destroyed.

Authorities announced Thursday that 73-year-old Peter Fleurat was among those who died in Montecito.

"For some reason, she opened the front door" and was swept away, Diane Brewer, one of Gower's friends, told CNN.

'A loyal and loving friend to me and to so, so many.

Rohter was the founder of St. Augustine Academy, a small, private, Roman Catholic K-12 school in Ventura, Calif. "Thousands have been blessed by the Rohters' friendship and generosity".

"The scariest thing was the sound", Farrell told ABC News.

Asher's return to the scene, where murky water was knee-deep, turned up at least one gem: his wife's engagement ring, the only keepsake she wanted him to find.

Henzgen, the Los Angeles Fire Department captain, pointed to a almost empty lot. "Helicopters rescued some people who climbed onto the roofs of their homes to escape the torrent of water, and mud".

Bleckel was among those on the "missing" list that shrank from 43 on Thursday evening to seven just 24 hours later, although there was some confusion over the number because two of the missing had the same name.

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