UNITED NEWS INTERNATIONAL (UNI) — Helicopters, bulldozers and military vehicles have all been deployed in the search for survivors amid devastating floods and mudslides in Southern California.

The death toll has risen to 17, and as of Thursday morning, Jan. 11, eight people were still missing.

Hundreds of emergency personnel are involved in the search and rescue operation that spans 30 square miles in Santa Barbara County.

The coastal community of Montecito was one of the hardest hit areas, with some houses ripped off their foundations or destroyed in mudslides.

Aerial photos of the debris field show entire neighborhoods inundated by mud.

On Wednesday, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters the rescue operation will eventually transition to one of recovery, which he warns will be a “long and difficult journey.”

A massive wildfire enveloped this part of Southern California just last month. Damage done by that fire made the area vulnerable to flooding and mudslides.