your connection to The Boston Globe

More Calif. mudslide victims found

Heavy rain forecast for today; officials issue new warnings

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Authorities found five more bodies yesterday deep in the mud that engulfed a church camp on Christmas Day, and urged people in mountain areas scorched by fall wildfires to prepare for heavy rains today that could trigger more mudslides.

Two children washed away from the Saint Sophia Campground were found tangled in debris more than 4 miles below, in a concrete catch basin in downtown San Bernardino, said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. Two women and a man, all in their 40s, were found closer to the camp in the San Bernardino Mountains. It took a bulldozer and other heavy equipment to find those bodies in the deep mud.

The grim discoveries brought the total number of bodies recovered from the Greek Orthodox camp to 12, with a baby boy and a youth still unaccounted for, Patterson said. Two other people died in a mudslide Thursday at a campground about 5 miles away.

The identities of the victims found yesterday were not immediately known. People who had been counted among the missing include the camp's caretaker, Jorge Monzon, his wife, Carla, and their 6-month-old son, as well as Rosa Najera, 42, and her daughter Katherine, 6.

Authorities said the children found yesterday were a 7- to 9-year-old girl and a 12- to 14-year-old boy.

Patterson said search crews, including six corpse-sniffing dogs, would resume the search this morning.

"We may never find everyone. We have to be practical. We may have bodies that have washed down several miles. This is not a mudslide, it's a massive flash flood."

A memorial service was held yesterday at Church of God Prophecy in San Bernardino, which many of those killed or missing attended. Many of them also were immigrants from Guatemala, the Rev. Emilio Ruedas said.

Twenty-seven people were believed to have been celebrating Christmas with the camp's caretaker when boulders, trees, and 12-foot walls of mud crashed into the camp in Waterman Canyon, an area scoured bare of vegetation by fall wildfires.

The camp is run by Greek Orthodox parishes, but there was no organized camp event on Christmas Day, said the Rev. John Bakas, dean of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles.

The area remained in danger, with officials expecting 3 to 4 inches of rain tonight -- about the amount that fell during the mudslide, county Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said. A 30-mile swath of mountainside scorched by the wildfires was vulnerable to flash flooding, she said. "We need to make sure folks realize that. Now is the time to prepare."

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives