Two More Found Dead in Califorina Mudslide, Toll at 11
Tuesday , December 30, 2003 Source: Planet Ark
LOS ANGELES – The death toll from two southern California mudslides rose to 11 on Sunday as authorities intensified the search for five more victims and a looming storm threatened more flashflooding.
On Sunday, searchers aided by cadaver-sniffing dogs found the bodies of a man and a woman near a church camp in the San Bernardino Mountains where five children and two adults perished when the camp was engulfed by a rain-driven slide of rocks, mud and debris on Christmas Day. The dead and missing were among 28 people who had gathered at the caretaker’s cabin at St. Sophia Camp, about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, for a Christmas luncheon.
Authorities believe they became trapped when the cabin was overrun by a wall of mud and debris. Two women and two children escaped the tide of mud and alerted a sheriff’s deputy who was patrolling a nearby mountain road.
“What the coroner tells us is these people suffered major trauma,” Chip Patterson, San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokesman said of the dead.
“Whatever happened, happened in a short period of time. You know how much water it would take to move car-sized boulders … like they were pebbles. That’s how much water it was.”
Authorities took family and friends of the victims back to the camp on Sunday to give them “a first hand look at what happened there … and whatever consolation that they can have,” Patterson said.
Searchers planned to work until nightfall in hopes of finding the missing before a massive storm forming in the Pacific Ocean reaches the mountains on Tuesday.
The storm was expected to bring up to 6 inches of rain, sub-freezing temperatures and strong winds to the San Bernardino Mountains, which were charred two months ago by deadly wildfires that were among the worst in state history.
The rains could spur more flash flooding on the denuded slopes, the National Weather Service said.
Patterson said sheriff’s deputies had gone door-to-door in the slide zone to “make sure everybody is out because of the possibility of rain.”
The last survivors were found hours after the mudslide in Old Waterman Canyon engulfed St. Sophia Camp.
The bodies of a man and a woman were recovered on Friday at a campground several miles away. They had been killed in a separate slide that destroyed 32 trailers and sent 52 people scrambling to safety on Thursday.
Authorities have said some of the bodies may never be recovered. “We could have bodies that washed down for miles that may be caught under rocks and trees and several feet of mud and debris,” Pattersonsaid.