California highway to stay shut another week after mudslides

Mike Balsamo

People attend a candlelight vigil in Santa Barbara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, to pay tribute to the people who were killed when mudslides ravaged a Southern California. (AP Photo/Mike Balsamo)

LOS ANGELES — Crews working around the clock cleared boulders, trees and crushed cars from all lanes of U.S. 101, but California officials said Monday the key coastal highway would remain closed for another week after being inundated during mudslides that killed 20 people.

Much of the water on the highway near the devastated town of Montecito had receded, allowing workers to use bulldozers and other heavy equipment to push away solid debris that was still several feet deep.

“It is not until you can see the damage with your own eyes that you can come to understand the magnitude of the incident, the response that is necessary, but most importantly the impact to the citizens and families of Santa Barbara County,” said Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation.

The number of people missing in the mudslides was cut to three Monday after a 53-year-old man was found safe. John “Jack” Keating was located in Ventura with his dog Tiny, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

Keating, a transient, was not in the flood zone during the storm, as was feared, she said.

Those still missing are Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28; John “Jack” Cantin, 17; and 2-year-old Lydia Sutthithepa.

Officials were aiming to reopen U.S. 101 on Jan. 22, nearly two weeks after it was shut down when lanes became a river of muck, Shivers said.

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