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Death toll from California mudslides rises to 18

© AFP | A member of a search and rescue team and his dog look for victims in Montecito, California, which was hit by mudslides that left 18 dead

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - 

Authorities in southern California said Friday they had discovered the body of an elderly man killed by mudslides that battered the region earlier this week, lifting the overall death toll to 18.

The 87-year-old man was "located by a search and rescue team in his residence," said Bill Brown, the sheriff of Santa Barbara county.

Rescuers are continuing their search operations, with the missing now numbering seven, including a two-year-old girl, according to the Santa Barbara sheriff's office.

Heavy rain on Tuesday, which followed 10 months of drought, sent sticky mud and debris flowing from the hills into Montecito.

In addition to the dead and injured, 65 houses have been destroyed while another 462 sustained damage.

Terrifying wildfires forced people to evacuate in December, and the mudslides struck just two weeks after they returned.

The fires burned most vegetation, leaving perfect conditions for the latest disaster to unfold.

© 2018 AFP