Rain to Hamper California Mudslide Search

Authorities warned mountain community residents to brace for more rain and possible flooding as recovery efforts continued for the bodies of those caught Christmas Day in a deadly flash flood and mudslide at a mountain camp.


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities warned mountain community residents to brace for more rain and possible flooding as recovery efforts continued for the bodies of those caught Christmas Day in a deadly flash flood and mudslide at a mountain camp.

Three to four more inches of rain were expected in the area by Tuesday night. A 30-mile swath of mountainside scorched by the fall wildfires is especially vulnerable to flash flooding, said San Bernardino Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez.

``We need to make sure folks realize that. Now is the time to prepare,'' Martinez said.

Fire stations were handing out sandbags to residents but supplies were quickly diminishing, she said.

Meanwhile, the total of deaths from the disaster mounted Sunday with five more bodies recovered.

The bodies of two children that washed away from the St. Sophia Camp were found tangled in debris more than four miles below, in a cement 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 deep mud.

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

Not all of the identities of the victims found Sunday were immediately known. It was believed that all came to the camp to celebrate Christmas with the camp's caretaker, Jorge Monzon.

Monzon did not have permission to hold the gathering and knew he was not allowed to throw parties at the retreat, said Father John Bakas, dean of St. Sophia Cathedral of Los Angeles.

``He only had a little apartment there with a living room, two bedrooms and a kitchen,'' Bakas told the Los Angeles Times in Monday's newspaper. ``There was never any authority to bring in the numbers who were there. ... He knew anytime we had any groups up there they had to be supervised.''

Patterson said crews would resume the search Monday morning.

The bodies of the children - a preteen girl and a teenage boy - were found more than four miles from the camp ground, Patterson said.

``It's been several days and our hopes are not high of finding people alive,'' Patterson said. ``We may never find everyone.''

A service was held Sunday at the Church of God Prophecy in San Bernardino, where about two hundred people gathered to honor the victims.

Many of those killed or missing had attended the church, the Rev. Emilio Ruedas said. Many were immigrants from Guatemala.

Worshippers at the evangelical church shouted and sang Spanish hymns. Many cried quietly. During one song, a woman began screaming and sobbing and collapsed in her chair. She was escorted out several minutes later, visibly shaken.

``A few months ago, we had disasters from the wildfires. It was a terrible thing,'' Ruedas told worshippers. ``But you know ... God is working his healing and is with us tonight.''

Two bodies recovered Saturday near the camp chapel were identified Sunday at a news conference as belonging to a girl of about 7 to 10 years old and a man in his 30s.

Other victims have been identified as 11-year-old Jose Pablo Navarro of San Bernardino and his 13-year-old cousin, Ivan Navarro of Fontana, and Ramon Meza, 30, of San Bernardino.

The bodies of Monzon, 41, and his wife, Clara, 40, were found Sunday, according to the San Bernardino County coroner's office. Monzon's daughters, Wendy, 17, and Raquel, 9, had been reported dead earlier. His baby son is listed as missing.

The other body recovered Sunday was identified as Rosa Najera-Juarez, 40, of San Bernardino.

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