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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Death toll rises to 20 as California counts cost of mudslides

Crews pump mud on Highway 101 in Montecito, California (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Crews pump mud on Highway 101 in Montecito, California (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A 30-year-old father who had been missing after mudslides cascaded through Montecito earlier this week has been identified as one of the dead.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says Pinit Sutthithepa's body was found on Saturday afternoon.

His two-year-old daughter, Lydia, is still missing.

Mr Sutthithepa's six-year-old son, Peerawat, and his father-in-law, 79-year-old Richard Loring Taylor, were also among the 20 people killed.

Authorities say four people, including Mr Sutthithepa's daughter, have been reported missing.

Friends have said Mr Sutthithepa arrived from Thailand, leaving behind his wife and two children but sending them money for years until he could bring them to the United States,

Parishioners prayed for those killed and for families still searching for missing relatives.

Because most churches in coastal Montecito remain in an evacuation area, many worshippers attended Sunday services in nearby towns.

At a church in Santa Barbara, they lit candles and prayed for families who lost loved ones.

They said the victims were their friends and neighbours.

In the disaster area, firefighters are going door to door to check the structural stability of homes damaged in the storm.

Recovery crews continue to work around the clock, digging away at the masses of mud, boulders and toppled trees.


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