Land Behind Row of Homes Gives Way

Saturday, Jan 8, 2011  |  Updated 12:21 PM PDT
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Fire officials responded Friday morning to reports of a landslide behind six houses in <a title=San Clemente." />

Fire officials responded Friday morning to reports of a landslide behind six houses in San Clemente.

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Residents were retrieving their belongings Saturday from four southern Orange County homes red-tagged after the hillside behind them gave way earlier this week.

The land around the homes in San Clemente was stable enough to allow residents to make supervised trips inside, City Engineer Bill Cameron said. Authorities previously prohibited residents from entering.

On Friday, the residents were told to move their belongings from the rear to the front of the house.

"Now we'll give them a day or two to remove the stuff they want," Cameron said.

The landslide Thursday was within about 10 feet of the homes situated along a bluff overlooking a golf course. The slide opened a 25- to 50-foot vertical drop onto the golf course below, Cameron said.

Cameron said engineers were keeping an eye on new cracks discovered early Saturday around the homes' backyard patios for possible signs that more land could crumble. Two more houses also were affected by the slide, but authorities have not marked them with red tags.

"Obviously we want to watch to see whether the failure will continue to move further back towards the homes," he said. "Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't."

Residents said they heard a crack on Thursday night, then noticed the slumped hillside Friday morning and called authorities.

"It was devastating," Roshy Gill, a resident of one of the affected homes, told KTTV-TV. "Where there was brush and trees, it was all gone, it just went down the hill. We just got the essentials together, and they told us we have to leave. So they turned off the gas, the water's turned off."

Cameron said that since the slide was on private property, it would be up to the homeowners to do any repairs that would allow them to move back into their property.

Southern California received heavy rain in December and early this month, leaving some areas susceptible to slides. The coastal bluffs and canyons of southern Orange County are commonly threatened by moving earth.

Cameron said it was too early to tell whether the rain contributed to Thursday's landslide. Geologists and engineers will evaluate the cause, he added.

Three other homes on the same street have been condemned in the past because of slides, the Orange County Register reported. The latest slide exposed a drainage pipe, which some residents suspect played a role in the slope failure.

About 14 miles to the north of San Clemente, a June 2005 landslide in the Bluebird Canyon neighborhood of Laguna Beach destroyed 11 homes, left several more severely damaged and displaced hundreds of residents.
 

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