At least 17 people are dead as relentless rain and flooding continue to wallop California – while dramatic photos show two cars trapped in a massive sinkhole with passengers inside.
The startling images capture a pickup truck that was engulfed by the gaping 15-foot-deep sinkhole on Iverson Road in Chatsworth, Los Angeles County, around 7:15 p.m. Monday as a series of atmospheric rivers brought heavy precipitation to the region.
The pickup landed unceremoniously on top of another vehicle, prompting a rescue effort involving 50 Los Angeles firefighters, the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement.
While the two occupants of the truck were able to escape on their own, extricating the teenage girl and adult woman in the bottom vehicle “involved bringing ground ladders and laying them down to span the hole so crews could try to reach the victims,” the statement read.
“We attempted to bridge that gap with ladders to get down from above, to be able to hopefully open the door and self-extricate the two victims in the car,” Battalion Chief Andrew Worden explained in a video of the rescue.
The initial plan failed as rain continued to run down the street and into the hole, causing the car the shift and roll. Other parts of Iverson Road were also beginning to crack.
“With the entire road compromised, firefighters had to make an immediate rescue to save the lives of the two people trapped,” the LAFD statement continued.
Eventually, the two passengers were extracted using an aerial ladder and rope operation that lowered a firefighter into the hole, allowing them to secure each victim before hoisting them out.
Grainy footage of the incident shows one of the victims clinging to the firefighter as they are lifted to safety.
LAFD confirmed that both the woman and the teen sustained minor injuries, and were evaluated at a local hospital.
Iverson Road will remain closed while city officials determine the extent of the required repairs.
The heart-stopping rescue is one of many dramatic scenes unfolding across California this week, as 90 percent of the Golden State remains under flood watch while atmospheric river conditions forced evacuations in several counties.
The National Weather Service in Los Angeles called the storm system “the most impressive storm to strike the area since January 5-7, 2005.”
Drone video shared Tuesday shows entire neighborhoods in Merced, about 130 miles outside San Francisco, struggling to stay above the muddy water. The county Sheriff’s Office is reportedly going door-to-door, helping residents evacuate.
Further south, coastal Santa Barbara County has already received five to 10 inches of rain. A video captured Tuesday showed East Mountain Drive in Montecito — just five minutes from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s opulent manse — crumbling under a heavy flow of water.
While the county lifted its evacuation order on Tuesday afternoon, officials urged residents to stay put as rain continues to fall.
As of Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office had confirmed that the atmospheric river onslaught killed at least 17 people — more than wildfires for the previous two years combined.
After sharing an update on the extreme conditions, Newsom took to Twitter to pontificate about the role of the climate crisis in severe weather events.
“This whiplash weather is not an anomaly,” he wrote.
“California is proof that the climate crisis is real and we have to take it seriously.”