Another Flood Victim Found in California

Searchers found the body of a baby Monday in a mountain canyon, raising the confirmed death toll from last week's flash floods to 15.


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) - Searchers found the body of a baby Monday in a mountain canyon, raising the confirmed death toll from last week's flash floods to 15, even as a powerful new Pacific storm threatened more floods and mudslides.

The body of 8-month-old Jeremias Monzon was found in the San Bernardino Mountains, below a church camp where his father was caretaker. He was the 13th confirmed fatality from a group of family and friends who were spending Christmas at the camp when the mud rushed down on them.

One boy, Edgar Meza, 12, remains missing in the mudslide, said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

``We're not going to stop looking for him,'' Patterson said.

Two other people died Christmas Day when water swept through a trailer campground about five miles to the west in Devore.

The National Weather Service posted flash flood watches Monday in eight counties, including San Bernardino. Rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches were forecast.

``But the bad news is, it's already rained up there so the soil's already saturated,'' said weather specialist Stuart Seto at the Oxnard NWS office. ``It probably can't hold much more.''

No evacuations were called, but fire stations passed out sandbags and authorities warned residents to be prepared in the San Bernardino Mountains, which tower over the inland area east of Los Angeles.

Vast swaths of the range were burned bare by the wildfires that swept over nearly 750,000 acres of Southern California in October and November.

Flash flood watches were posted Monday from San Luis Obispo County south through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to Los Angeles, and east and south through San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. Gale warnings and small craft advisories went up along the coast.

Christmas Day flash floods roared down through the San Bernardino Mountains, sweeping away two buildings at St. Sophia Camp. Fourteen people at the gathering escaped but 14 others were carried away.

Jorge Monzon, 41, and his wife, Clara, 40, apparently had invited friends and family to celebrate Christmas at St. Sophia Camp, which serves Greek Orthodox churches. Many of the guests were Guatemalan immigrants.

The bodies of Monzon's two daughters were recovered during the weekend.

The bodies of two children found Sunday had washed down from the camp and were tangled in debris more than four miles below, in a cement catch basin in downtown San Bernardino, Patterson said.

The caretaker, his wife and another woman were found closer to the camp but it took a bulldozer and heavy equipment to dig them from the deep mud.

Monzon lived at the camp with his family in a two-room apartment. He did not have permission to hold the gathering or allow his guests to use the facilities, said Father John Bakas, dean of St. Sophia Cathedral of Los Angeles.

``Having 20, 25 people there without our knowledge was something we would not have encouraged,'' he said.

Bakas and a few members of the congregation went to the camp Monday to pray for those who died.

``We're devastated,'' he said. ``We are a faith community committed to try to do what we can to try to make some sense of this.''