Mudslide Leaves Residents Grief Stricken And Unattended

July 18, 2007
Braulio Ramirez

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

The mudslide occurred between 4 and 5am after 4 hours of heavy rain. James Perez, Secretary of Environmental Policy, estimated that the storm had caused at least $100 million in damages. He also stated that clean up will take three months and one year to rebuild the damaged homes.

Residents complained they were not forewarned about the evident repercussions that can result from a mudslide.

“The people that should have known, especially the government, never notified us,” Deborah Wilson, one of the many victims, said. The 58-year-old retired nurse evacuated the house Sunday morning when her house was at the peak of collapsing.
According to the Secretary of Environmental Policy, the government had previously mailed notifications to the 20 homes. Despite the government claims, there is still no sign of action.

“I talked to some of my neighbors,” Deborah said, frowning contemptuously. “No one told us. And we never received any mail.”
“I hope that as a community we could confront the government,” Robert Lacusay, 38, said. “I’m sleeping in my car with my two sons. They need to go to school. I need to work. We need a place to stay and the government shows no sign to even do anything.” The graphic artist’s work plummeted to the ocean along with half of his house. His two sons, Jack and Steve, seem to be the only value that survived the terrible plunge. His wife was not so fortunate; Ramana Fragola grieves with a broken arm in the hospital.

None of the victims own insurance that will cover this type of catastrophe, and the government seems unaccountable. Residents have protested against the government’s lack of response. Housing for the victims will not be provided for another two weeks, the Secretary of Environmental Policy informed.

Dr. Carl McKinney, a hydro-geologist who works for the Scripps Institute, has researched the beaches where the disaster occurred. McKinney believes the increase of pavement and house building over the last 35 years has channeled the water flow in the local area. This means that heavy rainstorms and other notable factors, such as building, led to the recent debris flow.

“It was only a matter of time that this would happen,” the hydro-geologist said. “Houses should have never been built on this area.”

Despite warnings from McKinney about rebuilding, James Perez informed that the government intends to tackle reconstruction plans.

“We are taking preventive measures at the moment,” James Perez said. The Secretary of Environmental Policy is not at liberty to discuss details.

The government’s lack of aid and vague responses further baffle the victims. They complain they are suffering enough with such deliberate losses for the government to remain inert.

“My husband’s ashes are flowing in the ocean,” Deborah, 58, said. “What do you have to say about that?”

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