At least 13 people died and thousands fled from their homes in Southern California as a powerful rainstorm triggered flash floods and mudslides on slopes where a series of intense wildfires burned off protective vegetation last month.

Some 163 people have been taken to hospital. Twenty had “Storm-related injuries” and four were critically hurt.

A group of up to 300 people are reportedly trapped in Romero canyon, east of Santa Barbara.

Police said the scene “Looked like a world war one battlefield”.

The flooding and mudslides, affecting areas scorched by wildfires last month, have shut down more than 48km of the main coastal road.

Emergency services said a number of people were unaccounted for and they expected the number of deaths to rise.

Thousands fled the deluge and more than 50 rescues have been performed.

The hardest-hit homes were those that were not in the evacuation zone.

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