Laguna Beach Mudslide Leaves Residents Homeless

July 17, 2007
Duceani Dávila

A mudslide destroyed 20 Laguna Beach homes on Sunday, displacing at least 45 residents and injuring 10 others. At least one of the inured residents is in critical condition.

The mudslide occurred between four and five in the morning, after hours of heavy rains. The storm caused at least $100 million in property damage, said James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Policy. Clean up will take three months and rebuilding the damaged homes will take one year, Perez added.

Residents complained they were not forewarned of the storm and that the government has been slow to respond with aid. However, Mr. Perez assures that warnings were sent by mail before the mudslide happened.

“We didn’t receive any type of warning from anyone, no letter, no nothing.” said victim Deborah Wilson. Later she added, “Why did the government send a representative to a press conference and not to our homes?”

Deborah Wilson, 58-year-old retired nurse, was among the victims who lost their home and whose most precious belongings including her husband’s ashes, were lost in the mudslide. Mrs. Wilson woke up to the sound of what she though was an earthquake and ran outside her house for safety.

“It felt like the world was coming to an end,” explained Mrs. Wilson.

Robert Lecusay, another resident displaced by the mudslide is currently living in a car with his two sons while his wife is hospitalized with a broken arm. His home was split in half by the mudslide. Mr. Lecusay, a graphic design artist will not be able to recover his most important art pieces that were destroyed when half of his house fell into the ocean.

The mudslide was caused because the soil structure was unstable and prone to rainfalls. The rain started at around midnight and ended at 4 in the morning. The cops arrived to the scene at approximately at 5:30am. Hydro biologist Carl McKinney affirms that this may happen again due to the instability of the land.

The Lecusay family’s situation is complicated by the fact their insurance providers do not cover mudslides.

“The government should be making insurance companies be more upfront about what they cover and don’t” said Lecusay.

While the government claims they have plans of rebuilding the city of Laguna Beach, residents believe they are not doing anything to provide assistance. In response to the residents’ concerns, Secretary Perez said, “We will be rebuilding but I am not at liberty to discuss the details.”

Meanwhile the residents are finding ways to survive due to the lack of government support. There are no shelters at the moment. This makes personal hygiene difficult to maintain. There aren’t that many restrooms or places to bathe.

“We have no where else to go” said Lecusay “All I can do is go with my kids to the local McDonald’s and go use their restroom.”

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