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At least six people killed in Montecito mudslides were in voluntary evacuation zones; 11 others on border

Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

LOS ANGELES -- At least six of the 21 people killed in the devastating mudslides in Montecito nearly two weeks ago were in voluntary evacuation zones, while 11 others were along the border of the voluntary and mandatory evacuation areas, authorities said Sunday.

Four people who died were swept away from neighborhoods under mandatory evacuation orders, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

It was not immediately clear if the victims who lived along the border were in the mandatory or voluntary zone.

The revelations heighten concerns over how authorities decided which neighborhoods to evacuate and how residents were notified about the impending danger.

Two people -- 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa and 17-year-old John "Jack" Cantin -- are still missing. One was in a home on East Valley Road that sits on the border of the two zones, while the other was in a voluntary evacuation area.

"It's very possible that they could be underneath a significant amount of mud that is drying and ultimately has to be removed," Brown said of those still unaccounted for. "And it is still also very possible that they -- one or more of them -- could have been swept out to sea."

 

Search teams have combed through some areas as many as eight times -- at least three times in the last two days alone. Dogs trained to detect human remains and their handlers have scoured debris piles up to 20 feet high and 40 feet wide, sometimes in waist-deep mud, Brown said.

"They are extremely tenacious," Brown said.

Crews recovered the bodies of the victims along three watercourses, Brown said. One person was found dead adjacent to Romero Creek, while four others lost their lives along San Ysidro Creek.

The remaining 16 victims were found along the Montecito Creek watercourse, which Brown said was "by far struck the hardest."

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