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Mandatory Evacuations Expand In Montecito To Clear Way For Heavy Equipment

MONTECITO (CBSLA) — The mandatory evacuation zone in Montecito has expanded three days after a devastating mud slide that killed at least 17 people.

The search amid the mud-covered wreckage of cars and homes is in its third day Friday, and crews want people out of the area in order to bring in more dump trucks and heavy equipment to move more of the boulders and debris.

"The unstable environment remains a critical threat to civilians and responders. The large amounts of mud and debris are making access and progress challenging," Friday's Santa Barbara County Fire incident update said.

What was previously designated a public safety exclusion zone -- an area west of Sheffield Drive/East Valley Road/Ladera Lane, east of Olive Mill/Hot Springs Road, north of the ocean, and south of the U.S. Forest Service boundary -- is now part of the mandatory evacuation order area.

The number of people missing - currently at five - continues to fluctuate, but authorities say that number could change again as the sheriff's department continues to receive reports of missing persons.

With some homes still buried up to their roofs, and the remains of large trees and giant boulders throughout the 30 square miles of Montecito affected by the mud slide, it could be weeks before people are allowed back into the area.

Cleanup also continued throughout the night on Highway 101, which was turned into a river of mud by Tuesday's torrent of rain and subsequent slide. Caltrans has said the highway will reopen by Monday, but mud, debris and abandoned cars remained on both sides of the roadway as of Friday morning.

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