Mudslide Destroys 20 Homes Leaving Many Abandoned

July 17, 2007
LeVincent Truong

A mudslide Laguna Beach forced at least 45 residents from their homes on Sunday. At least 10 injured and one in critical condition.

The mudslide occurred between four and five in the morning after four hours of heavy rainfall. James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Policy, estimated that the mudslide caused least $100 million in damages. Clean up of the debris is expected to take up to three months. Full reconstruction may take up to one year, Perez added.

Robert Lecusay, 38, a displaced victim is still waiting for aid. He, a self-employed graphic designer who worked at home before the mudslide, was robbed of his works when his home washed away. Waiting for shelter, he and his two sons Jack and Steve took refuge in their family car. His wife Ranma Fragola is hospitalized for a broken arm.

“ I’ve been going eating uncooked food from the grocery store and using the bathroom in the local McDonalds,” said Lecusay. “ I’m still waiting for my wife to return from the hospital.”

Government officials claimed they sent warnings prior to the disaster to the local residents. However residents received no such information. Many were left with nothing to salvage. Perez said providing housing for victims of the storm would take up to two weeks, leaving many without shelter.

“ We sent a mail notification to every resident affected by the mudslide 3 weeks in advanced,” said Perez. “ We were not sure this was going to happen or when, we just took preventative measures.”

Deborah Wilson, 58, another resident affected by the storm lost her prized possessions, including the ashes of late husband. She too was not notified of the possibly mudslide disaster.

“ I could have saved a lot of things if someone just warned us,” said Wilson.

The homes were not placed in a stable landmark, said Carl McKinley, a hydro-geologist examining the disaster. The building site was inspected many years before houses were built and did not show any signs of danger, said Perez.

“ We inspected the area before and it showed up safe,” said Perez. “ We didn’t know the ground was unsafe because our data always changes.”

Policemen and specialists were sent to the site at 5:30am, 15 minutes after the event. Government aid and shelter were not given at the time. Many residents still wait for housing and clean clothes.

“ They send people to get us to a conference,” said Wilson. “ But they don’t send us people to give us shelter or aid.”

The plans for hotel shelters for the residents are still being planned, said Perez. I may take up to two weeks, Perez added.

“ Trust me, they’re doing nothing for us,” said Lecusay.

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