Firefighters rescue teen trapped hours by California mudslide: ‘Thought I was dead’
Firefighters in Montecito, Calif., managed to rescue a young woman who was trapped for several hours in the debris of a home destroyed by mudslides in the Santa Barbara County community on Tuesday.
At least 15 people were killed after heavy rains sent mud and boulders down California hillsides barren of vegetation as a result of the devastating wildfires that ripped through the region last month.
Rescue crews used helicopters to pluck people from rooftops because trees and power lines blocked roads. Firefighters pulled a mud-caked 14-year-old girl from a collapsed Montecito home where she had been trapped for hours. The rescue was caught on video.
NBC News captured the moment Lauren Cantin was pulled from the rubble Tuesday afternoon.
“I thought I was dead for a minute there,” Cantin said.
Aided by search dogs, crews from the Montecito Fire Protection District combed through the mud-soaked community, searching for survivors amongst the debris.
“It was so hard to hear her. You know, we could have very easily just taken two more steps and we wouldn’t be able to hear her at all,” firefighter Andy Rupp said following the rescue.
Santa Barbara County Fire Department released photos and video of Cantin’s rescue showing the girl being assisted by several firefighters before being carried away on a stretcher.
“To be able to have her come out safely and as unscathed as she was, it was pretty phenomenal,” Rupp told NBC News.
“Thank you, guys,” Cantin said as she was placed into an ambulance.
Evacuations were ordered in recently burned areas of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. But only an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of people in a mandatory evacuation area of Santa Barbara County heeded the warning, authorities said.
The U.S. Coast Guard used a helicopter to pluck stranded residents from rooftops. Video shows rescuers helping residents onto roofs before they were helped into rescue baskets and lifted into the helicopter.
Video shows a family of five, including an infant, and two dogs being hoisted into the coast guard chopper.
The worst of the rainfall occurred in a 15-minute span starting at 3:30 a.m. Montecito received more than 38 millimetres of rain in five minutes.
–with files from the Associated Press.
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