Laguna Beach Residents Left Homeless

July 17, 2007
Marco Fernandez

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

The mudslide occurred between four and five in the morning after four hours of heavy rains. James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Study, estimated that the storm had caused at least $100 million in damages. He also stated that clean up will take three months and rebuilding the damaged homes will take one year.

Residents complained they were not forewarned of the storm and that the government has been slow to respond with aid. Former 123 Main Street residents have had to find shelter without any help from either local authorities or federal agencies. Some residents are staying at hotels whereas others like Robert Lecusay are forced to live in their cars and use the restroom at the nearest McDonalds. The government is claiming that they will find temporary housing for those who have lost their homes in two weeks, but this merely disappoints most. “Take it from me, they aren’t not providing anything,” said Mr. Lecusay.

Deborah Wilson, 58, is another resident who has lost everything, including the irreplaceable. Her husband’s ashes fell into the sea alongside the back of her house. During the actual disaster, Wilson was unable to react swiftly enough to salvage any of her possessions when she fled the house. “ It sounded like an earthquake,” said Wilson. “I though the world was coming to an end.”

Presumably, the government notified all residents three weeks in advance. Several residents were frustrated with this claim, as they never received the letter explaining the situation regarding the land their houses had been built upon. According to Perez, the Secretary of Environmental Study, he has only had his job for the past two weeks and was not briefed by the person who held his position prior to him. Governor Schwarzenegger briefed him. The unstable land issue was not under control.
In fact, governor Schwarzenegger is yet to visit the affected area, although he did send a government representative to attend a press conference regarding the mudslide.

The problem does not end here, as scientists are unable to predict what will happen throughout the area in the future. Dr. McKinney, a hydro geologist working for Mr. Perez, advised residents to not rebuild their homes. Instead, he advised that they relocate their houses. Dr. McKinney explained how the soil in the area could easily liquefy again if there ever were to be another storm such as the one that took place Sunday night. Next time, the wreckage could be worse. Dr. McKinney insinuated that this specific part of Laguna Beach should never have been suburbanized. Yet, he also admitted that this disaster could be another example of global warming taking its toll.

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