Landslide buries CA homes

A landslide destroyed at least 18 upscale homes in Laguna Beach, Calif., Wednesday morning.

BY SUSAN KIM | LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. | June 1, 2005

A landslide destroyed at least 18 upscale homes in Laguna Beach, Calif., Wednesday morning. About 15 additional homes were damaged, according to fire department reports.

Emergency crews reported four people sustained minor injuries. Emergency management officials were able to evacuate most people before the hillside collapsed. About 1,000 people were evacuated from 350 homes on the hillside.

Soil was still moving beneath the homes on Wednesday afternoon. The area - called Blue Bird Canyon - is about 15 blocks from the ocean. Homes there are, on average, worth $1.75 million. The hillside has sandstone rocks and clay sediments that are highly susceptible to landslides.

The California Geological Survey warned residents in Southern California to watch for visible foundation cracks, tilted telephone poles, buckled streets or other signs of a landslide.

Whether people are adequately insured or high-income, the mudslide will renew trauma for this community, said the Rev. Jerry Tankersley, pastor at the Laguna Beach Presbyterian Church. The steep coastal area in Orange County has been plagued with landslides in the past.

The sanctuary, located in downtown Laguna Beach, was unaffected but even while crews were conducting search-and-rescue, Tankersley already found out at least two families in his church has lost their homes.

In February 1998, a rainstorm triggered landslides that damaged 300 homes and killed two people. An October 1993 fire destroyed about 400 homes.

“In the late 1970s, this area had a major slide and lost 30 homes,” he said, “and now this has hit almost the same area. I don’t know if people are insured for slides. I am trying to find out."

Laguna Beach has also felt the effects of wildfires and earthquakes, he said. “I feel like we’ve got it again,” he said. “These are mainly upscale homes. But there will be emotional needs. I don’t really know about other needs yet.”

In the past, Tankersley said, national disaster response groups such as Presbyterian Disaster Assistance have lent a hand in post-disaster situations.

Laguna Beach is some 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Southern California has had its second rainiest season on record this year.

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