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California community makes recovery strides after mudslide

January 20, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, crews work on clearing Highway 101 in the aftermath of a mudslide in Montecito, Calif. Officials say the possibility of future catastrophic floods will be in mind as Montecito rebuilds following deadly mudslides that devastated the wealthy coastal hideaway. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) — The key highway along the California coast has been cleared of debris and is a few days from reopening while the search is widening from three people still missing after a massive mudslide, authorities said Friday.

U.S. Highway 101 has been cleaned of mud in Santa Barbara County, and workers are now clearing drainage areas and stabilizing embankments so it can reopen, Tim Gubbins of the California Department of Transportation said. Officials should know by Saturday whether they can meet their goal of a Monday reopening, but for now Gubbins would only say it would be open in the next few days.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen new teams of search dogs are set to arrive Saturday to join hundreds of firefighters in the search for three people still missing since the Jan. 9 slide. They are 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa, 17-year-old John Cantin and 28-year-old Fabiola Calderon.

“We’re searching deeper, we’re searching wider,” said Anthony Stornetta, a county fire battalion chief.

The three missing people are all from the same Olive Mill neighborhood of Montecito, where dogs and their handlers have been getting stuck in mud as they search, Sheriff Bill Brown said.

Only after the 101 is open, the search for the missing is completed and utilities are restored to the town will thousands of evacuees from Montecito be allowed to return to their homes, Brown said.

The devastation occurred in the early morning hours when torrents laden with boulders and debris swept down through neighborhoods, destroyed or damaged 430 homes and killed 20 people.

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