SANTA BARBARA, California. – The number of missing after California mudslide fluctuated wildly, as a result of a shift of the definitions, the inherent uncertainty that follows a natural disaster, and simply a human error.
On Thursday, the number that is provided by the authorities went from 48, to eight, then back up to 43. Officials say that an administrative error has led to the figure of eight is released.
At a press conference Thursday, where he said, 43 were missing, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the updated figure was that of an “inclusive” which included different definitions of “missing”.
“I know that it sounds as if it is a constantly moving number,” Brown said. “There is not a clear definition of what constitutes a missing person.”
It can be anything from an urgent, active missing-persons cases being worked by detectives receive calls from friends to say that they haven’t been able to reach someone who they believe in Montecito on Tuesday morning when mudslides swept through the city and 17 people killed.
Authorities would not specify how many people there are in each category.
Brown said that some of the people on the list missing may simply have left the area before or after the mudslides, or can only the contact with the friends and family looking for them.
Similar problems arise in the final year of the wine country, forest fires in Northern California, where sometimes thousands were missing, the vast majority just people whose communication with friends and family were cut off by the fire.
Brown said that of the 17 people that he announced were missing Wednesday, some were identified as among the dead and were crossed off the list.
He did not believe, he said Thursday that there are 43 more dead to be discovered, or even a figure close to that.