MONTECITO, Calif. (AP) - The number of people missing after the deadly mudslides in Montecito, California, has surged to 48.
Santa Barbara County spokeswoman Amber Anderson says the new number tallied Thursday follows sheriff's investigations of missing-persons reports.
The number of missing persons has fluctuated since the disaster hit early Tuesday morning and had been as low as 16 on Wednesday evening.
Anderson says the number of confirmed fatalities remains at 17.
The deadly mudslides that hit Montecito, California, were already occurring when Santa Barbara County officials first sent emergency alerts to cellphones in the area.
County emergency manager Jeff Gater tells the Los Angeles Times that the alert issued around 3:50 a.m. Tuesday was sent because of deteriorating conditions and followed one issued by the National Weather Service.
For days beforehand, the county had issued repeated warnings through social media, news media and community information emails about the potential for mudflows from the huge wildfire scar in the hills above neighborhoods.
Gater tells the Times more than 200,000 emails and other warnings were issued, but the county decided not to use the push alert system to cellphones out of concern that it might not be taken seriously.
Authorities also say only a small percentage of residents heeded mandatory and voluntary evacuation warnings.
Hundreds of searchers are still hunting for survivors of the flash flooding and mudslides near Santa Barbara, California.
They slogged through ooze and poked long holes into the mud on Wednesday as they searched for victims a day after the massive debris flow passed through.
The death toll from Tuesday's pre-dawn flash flood rose to 17 as more bodies were found. Another 17 were still reported missing.
Authorities are hoped to find them alive.
By Wednesday, some 500 searchers had covered about 75 percent of the inundated area in the search for victims.
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