Mudslide Devastates Laguna Beach Community

Rini Parekh
July 19, 2007

A mudslide destroyed 20 Laguna Beach homes, displacing at least 45 residents, and injuring 10 others. 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 Policy, estimated $100 million in damages. He also stated that clean up can take three months and rebuilding the houses will take one year.

Residents complained they were not forewarned of the storm and that the government has been slow to respond with aid. Several homeowners were asleep during the mudslide, and later evacuated their homes. Perez said notifications were sent through mail, but the residents said that they did not receive the warnings. He also stated that the government will take steps to bring aid to the displaced, but did not specify what measures.

Hydro-geologist Carl McKinney stated that the mudslide was caused by a variety of factors. He said that the soil in Laguna Beach is porous and easily erodes. The four inches of rain saturated the soil and caused the debris to flow down the steep slopes. McKinney also noted that excessive urbanization is also to blame as the soil is unable to support the many houses. He asserted that homeowners should be aware of the area’s instability and that a similar catastrophe could occur.

“I would advise against rebuilding,” said McKinney.” Inevitably, the damage is going to happen again.”

Homeowners Robert Lacusay and Deborah Wilson lost their homes. Wilson, 58, found temporary housing at a hotel. Lacusay, 38, was not so lucky. Since his insurance did not cover mudslide damages, he and his two sons, Jack and Steve, were forced to use their car for shelter. His wife has been hospitalized— she broke her arm during mudslide.

Deborah

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