A baby girl who was buried under dirt and rocks after deadly mudslides tore through California was rescued by a local man who miraculously heard her cries in the dark and pulled her out of the muck, officials said.
Berkeley Johnson, a Montecito resident who narrowly escaped the onslaught that wiped out his home, made the life-saving discovery Tuesday, Santa Barbara City Fire spokeswoman Amber Anderson told TIME.
After boulders and a rush of mud barreled through their home about 3 a.m., Johnson and his wife crawled out of a window on their roof, he told KSBY News. He was on his way to check on a neighbor when he heard a faint sound of a baby crying in the dark. Johnson and nearby firefighters rushed to the noise.
“We dug down and found a little baby,” Johnson told the TV station, fighting back tears. “We don’t know where it came from, but we got it out, got the mud out of its mouth.”
The baby was buried about 4-feet deep and tangled in roots, he said. She was taken to a hospital, Johnson told CBS Evening News.
“The girl’s OK. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “There’s no way that we should have found that child, and probably 15 more minutes, it wouldn’t have been alive because it was cold and it had been there for a while.”
The child’s current condition, identity and age are unclear. It’s also unclear whether she has been reunited with family members. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff Office did not immediately comment. Johnson could not be reached for comment by TIME on Thursday.
At least 17 people have died and 28 were injured in the storm, officials said Thursday. Eight people are still missing.