The Straits Times/Asia News Network
Oprah Winfrey posted videos on Instagram showing her wading through nearly knee-deep mud on her property and later inspecting the damage. (www.instagram.com/oprah//Oprah)
Media mogul and talk show host Oprah Winfrey's southern California estate was among the hundreds of properties hit by deadly mudslides that have killed at least 17 people.
Two dozen people remain missing after the mudslides swept through Santa Barbara County following a rainstorm that swept the area on Tuesday. The disaster came weeks after huge bushfires had stripped the surrounding hills of vegetation.
Among the hardest areas is Montecito, where Winfrey has a 26ha estate. The affluent area is a draw for the wealthy and other stars such as actor Rob Lowe and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who have homes there as well.
Montecito is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest and canyons from the nearby mountains channelled the torrents of mud, rock and debris towards residential areas.
Winfrey posted videos on Instagram showing her wading through nearly knee-deep mud on her property and later inspecting the damage.
"There used to be a fence right here. That's my neighbour's house. Devastated," Winfrey, 63, said as she stood, surrounded by debris.
She also posted a message saying: "Thanks everyone for your prayers and concern. My property is fine. Some mud, and minor damage that pales in comparison to what my neighbors are going thru. #mudslides"
It wasn't immediately clear how much of her sprawling estate was affected by the mudslides.
But many people have been affected by the disaster, which destroyed 100 single-family homes, damaged hundreds of other buildings and injured 28 people, Reuters quoted Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, as saying.
Winfrey first bought a 16.8ha estate called Promised Land that includes a 2,136 square metre mansion for a reported US$52 million (S$69 million) in 2001. In late 2016, she bought an adjoining 9.2ha ranch for US$28.9 million, local media reported.
DeGeneres posted a picture of a mud and debris-filled street outside her Montecito home on Twitter, saying she did not yet know the condition of the house itself.
Lowe posted several messages on Twitter, including: "Praying for all our friends and neighbors. Very bad situation in Montecito."
He also called for a reality check on speculation about Oprah running for the 2020 presidential race.
"Media talking about @OPRAH "maybe" running for President in 3 years. Meanwhile, AS WE SPEAK, her Montecito home's a staging ground for helicopter rescues. Priorities? Anyone?"