Missing People in Montecito Mudslides Reduced to 3 After Man Found Safe in Ventura

The number of missing people in Montecito after devastating mudslides there has been reduced to three after a 53-year-old man was found safe in Ventura, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officials said Monday.

John "Jack" Keating is described as being a transient who was in Carpinteria, not Montecito, when torrential rains triggered the mudslides on Jan. 9. Keating was found with his dog Tiny.

Searchers continued to sift through mud-caked debris Monday for the three remaining missing people.

Left to right: Faviola Benitez Calderon, John "Jack" Cantin and Lydia Sutthithepa are shown in photos released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office on Jan. 15, 2018.

Left to right: Faviola Benitez Calderon, John "Jack" Cantin and Lydia Sutthithepa are shown in photos released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office on Jan. 15, 2018.

Hampered by blocked roads, downed trees and power lines, deputies searched for John "Jack" Cantin, 17 and Faviola Benitez Calderon, 28; . 

Lydia Sutthithepa, 2, is also among the missing. Her father, Pinit Sutthithepa, 30, was found dead on Saturday.

The mudslides came in the early morning hours of last Tuesday,  killing 20 people, destroying an estimated 65 homes and damaging hundreds of others, the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection said.

The rain poured down on hillsides charred by recent wildfires, which burned vegetation that otherwise could make the terrain more resistant to mudslides.

The Thomas Fire -- the largest wildfire in California's recorded history -- burned more than 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties from early December into this month. It wasn't fully contained until Friday.

For days, rescuers searched frantically for the missing after mud and boulders barreled into neighborhoods in and near Montecito, an affluent seaside community east of Santa Barbara. The mudslides demolished homes and left roads impassable.

Now, what had been a search-and-rescue operation authorities is a search-and-recovery undertaking. The crews probably won't be hampered by bad weather most of this week. The first chance of rain will come Thursday night to Friday and it is estimated to amount generally to less than a third of an inch, CNN meteorologists said.

How to help the victims of the California mudslides

A member of a search and rescue team and his search dog sift through debris looking for victims on a property in Montecito, California on January 12, 2018. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

A member of a search and rescue team and his search dog sift through debris looking for victims on a property in Montecito, California on January 12, 2018. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The cleanup effort is arduous. Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a statement Sunday those who "encumber the continuing rescue efforts by unnecessarily entering the affected areas" could face fines and even jail.

She noted that the area is 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.

"Those areas are not only active search areas, but also remain dangerous. Therefore, unauthorized persons who enter those areas will not only interfere with critical and time-urgent search and rescue efforts, but may also become victims themselves."

A portion of US 101, a major freeway connecting Northern and Southern California, remained closed.  Officials Monday said that because of ongoing cleanup efforts, as well as weekend rain in the forecast, the highway will not reopen for at least another week.