California buildings remain in danger from a cliff collapse

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Authorities say about two dozen people forced to flee Southern California apartment buildings teetering on the brink of a landslide may be evacuated indefinitely.

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — About two dozen people forced to flee Southern California apartment buildings endangered by a collapsing seaside hill may be evacuated indefinitely.

Three clifftop apartment buildings and a nearby building in San Clemente, on the Orange County coast, were evacuated Wednesday as earth began to shift and slide from their backyards down a hillside after torrential rains. .

Residents were warned Thursday that they may not be allowed back for a while. Officials said there was no timetable for declaring the slope stable enough for residents to return.

“I think everyone should understand that we have a dynamic situation here,” Mayor Chris Duncan said during a news conference. “Another storm is coming, the ground continues to move, so these structures are still in danger.”

The National Weather Service said heavy rains could hit southern California again early next week.

Twenty to 30 residents were evacuated. Some were briefly allowed to return home on Thursday to remove their belongings.

Orange County has been added to a presidential emergency declaration for areas heavily affected by natural disasters.

About 35 of California’s 58 counties are now covered by the declaration, which authorizes federal assistance to help state and local governments deal with a series of ferocious winter storms.

California has been battered by 11 atmospheric rivers in a virtually continuous series causing flooding and mudslides, downed trees, stranded mountain dwellers in historically deep snow and downed power lines, leaving thousands without power.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said the county had seen more than $4 million in storm damage and that number will rise.

In the city of La Habra, news reports said a sinkhole about 30 feet (9.14 meters) deep opened Wednesday night alongside another sinkhole that opened in 2019 after heavy rain. Repairs to the previous hole have not yet been completed.

Some Southern California beaches have been closed as heavy rains overwhelmed sewage systems and sent thousands of gallons of raw sewage out to sea. Ventura County closed beaches near the Santa Clara River after a sewer line collapsed spewing about 148,000 gallons of sewage into the waterway, which empties into the Pacific Ocean. The closures were expected to remain in place through the weekend or until tests show bacteria levels are safe.

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