CALIFORNIA Rescuers search for mudslide victims
Wildfires have made the mountains vulnerable to mudslides.
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- Rescue crews slogged past fallen trees and boulders in an overnight search for at least 10 people trapped when a mudslide triggered by heavy rains swept over a foothill forest recently scorched by wildfire.
Traveling by foot because a road bridge was washed out, one team climbed up the steep terrain today and another descended it in an effort to reach the Saint Sophia Camp in Waterman Canyon, just north of San Bernardino.
Fourteen other people staying at the Greek Orthodox youth camp had been rescued by late Thursday, and 10 victims covered in mud were treated at a hospital for minor injuries, authorities said.
"One man was there with his 3-year-old child and said he grabbed the child and watched his wife and his other child wash away," said Kimberly VandenBosch, spokeswoman for St. Bernadine Medical Center in San Bernardino.
Streets and homes flooded in San Bernardino and elsewhere, while power outages and other mudslides were also reported after a storm dumped more than 31/2 inches of rain on some of the areas hit hardest by a series of massive Southern California wildfires that started two months ago.
Wildfires make the region's mountains much more prone to mudslides because they burn off vegetation that normally would help shore up steep terrain. The blazes in October and November were the most severe in state history, burning more than 750,000 acres.
Much of Waterman Canyon was scorched in the weeklong Old Fire, which burned more than 91,000 acres, destroyed 993 homes, and killed four people.
On Thursday, authorities evacuated residents who live in the canyon and closed off the road leading there. A surging stream of water rushed through the canyon, which looked like a sea of gray mud.
Temperatures had dropped into the 40s, and county Fire Marshall Peter Brierty said rescuers faced "incredibly mushy, muddy, slippery" conditions.
He said some debris flows contained logs and branches and were more than six feet high.
"Even a foot or 2 feet of this will knock you down," Brierty said.
One man was buried waist-deep in mud and debris and trapped underneath a log, county fire Capt. Rick McClintock said. Rescue crews were able to cut the log free and carried the man across a creek, he said.
No one answered the phone at the Saint Sophia Camp on Thursday. Messages left with camp officials were not immediately returned. The camp hosts summer religious retreats for children and other events year-round, according to its Web site.
It wasn't immediately known whether the people at the camp were affiliated with the Greek Orthodox parishes that run the facility or were holiday visitors.
Elsewhere in the county, a mudslide damaged and toppled trailers at a campground in Devore. Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said 30 to 50 people suffered minor injuries, some requiring hospital treatment. Several people were unaccounted for, but authorities said they were not believed to be in danger.