A huge mudslide crashed down on homes in a coastal hamlet with terrifying force Monday, killing at two people and leaving up to 12 missing as a Pacific storm hammered Southern California for a fourth straight day.A boulder some 25 feet high blocks both lanes of the Topanga Caynon Road, Monday, Jan. 10, 2005, as electrical contractors fix broken power and communication lines in Malibu, Calif. No injures where reported, but the road remains closed. The storm system was blamed for at least nine deaths during the weekend in Southern California, including a man killed when his vehicle plunged into the surf off Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, and a homeless man killed when the hillside where his tent was pitched gave way.
Ventura County Fire Department Chief Bob Roper said as many as a dozen residents were missing in the mudslide that pummeled a four-block area of homes in tiny La Conchita, about 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Nine people were injured, including a 60-year-old man who was buried for three hours.
"It lasted a long time. It was slow-moving. The roofs of the houses were crashing and creaking real loud and there was a huge rumble sound," said Robert Cardoza, a construction worker who was clearing debris from a nearby highway.
As rescuers combed the debris, geology experts with air horns watched the hillside above, ready to sound an alarm if it moved.
The mudslide brought the number of dead from the latest wave of storms to 11 in California. The storms have sent rainfall totals to astonishing levels, turning normally mild Southern California into a giant flood zone.
The hillside in La Conchita cascaded down like a brown river as authorities were evacuating about 200 residents from the area. Trees and vegetation were carried away, leaving huge gashes of raw earth on the bluff.
Some residents made their way from the area clutching pets, luggage or clothing as the huge mass of mud bore down. Some huddled together or cried as they talked on cell phones. Fifteen to 20 houses were hit by the slide.