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California buildings in danger from tumbling cliff


About two dozen people who have been forced to flee apartment buildings in Southern California threatened by an oceanfront landslide may have to evacuate indefinitely.

Three cliffside apartment buildings and one nearby building in San Clemente in coastal Orange County were red-tagged and evacuated Wednesday after soil began shifting and sliding from their yards after heavy rains swept down the hillside.

Residents were warned Thursday that they may be stranded for a while. Authorities 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,” said Mayor Chris Duncan during a press conference. “We have another rain coming, the ground continues to move, so these structures are still at risk.”

Heavy rain could hit Southern California again early next week, the National Weather Service said.

20-30 residents were evacuated. Some were briefly allowed to return home Thursday to move their belongings.

Orange County has been added to the presidential declaration of emergency for areas severely affected by natural disasters.

About 35 of California’s 58 counties are now covered by the proclamation, which allows for federal aid to help state and local governments deal with severe winter storms.

Almost non-stop, 11 atmospheric rivers surged across California, causing flash floods and landslides, downing trees, stranding mountain dwellers in historically deep snow and downed power lines, leaving thousands without power.

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

In the town of La Habra, a sinkhole about 30 feet (9.14 meters) deep was reported to have opened on Wednesday night, alongside another sinkhole that opened up after heavy rain in 2019. Repairs to the earlier hole have yet to be completed.

Some Southern California beaches have been closed as heavy rain overwhelmed sewer systems and sent thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the sea. Ventura County closed beaches near the Santa Clara River after a collapsed sewer line spilled about 148,000 gallons (560,240 liters) of sewage into the waterway, which flows 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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