At least 5 killed in Southern California mudslides following heavy rain

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LOS ANGELES — At least five people were killed and a dozen injured in mudslides triggered by heavy rains in Southern California over night and early Tuesday morning, local officials said.

In Montecito, an upscale community in Santa Barbara County, at least five homes were swept away in debris flows that struck in the middle of the night, said Mike Eliason, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

He said the death and injury count could rise after emergency crews are able to access neighborhoods blocked by mud and debris. Emergency crews performed dozens of rescues of people trapped in homes and trees, overnight and Tuesday morning, Eliason said.

The area is particularly vulnerable to mudslides after vegetation burned away in the recent massive wildfire that scorched the county. As much as 4 inches of rain pummeled the region from an unusually powerful winter storm, the first substantial precipitation to hit bone-dry Southern California in months. With little vegetation left on many hillsides in burn zones such as the Thomas Fire, which scorched nearly 300,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the heavy rain unleashed numerous mudslides.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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