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Infant's body found in mudslide aftermath

Heavy rains expected

The body of an 8-month-old boy was found near this building on the grounds of the St. Sophia Camp.
The body of an 8-month-old boy was found near this building on the grounds of the St. Sophia Camp.

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SAN BERNARDINO, California (CNN) -- Search crews late Monday found the body of an 8-month-old boy, leaving only one victim of the Christmas Day mudslide yet to be found, authorities said.

The discovery brings to 13 the number of victims recovered -- eight of them children. The baby's parents were among the victims, said Chip Patterson, spokesman for San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

A 12-year-old boy is still missing.

Patterson said crews Monday concentrated on moving debris in sites where cadaver dogs had made "hits," possibly indicating the presence of a body.

After Tuesday, he said, the search would continue only periodically.

The victims were visiting a church-owned campground when heavy rains sparked a flash flood and mudslide at Old Waterman Canyon, an area of the San Bernardino Mountains. Mountainsides nearby were scorched by wildfires in October and November, which removed vegetation vital to holding soil on the slopes.

All the victims were friends and family members of St. Sophia Camp's caretaker, Jorge Monzon, who died along with his wife, two daughters and two sons.

One body was found four miles away from the camp, carried by the rushing debris.

"I don't think we really thought we'd find this many [victims]. Based on the conditions, on what actually occurred, the amount of debris and rocks and the many miles affected, I think we were impressed we found this many," said Patterson.

Family members of those killed visited St. Sophia Camp Sunday, Patterson said, and were reassured that crews were doing the best they could to search through the huge mounds of debris, some reaching higher than a two-story house.

"Apparently that was a great deal of comfort to them, to say good-bye, to have a prayer at the site," he said, his voice breaking.

Two other people died when a separate mudslide washed out a KOA campground in nearby Devore. One one was helping people file forms for fire damage.

'If you wait until it starts raining, it's too late'

More than 3 inches of rain are expected to fall in some areas late Monday, with snow in higher elevations -- possibly in parts of Old Waterman Canyon.

If the heavy rains come as expected, Patterson said, "we're going to shut this operation down."

Tracy Martinez, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said authorities Monday were going door-to-door to houses in canyons, foothills and remote areas, warning residents about the impending rain.

"We're trying to give them as much detail as we can about the rain and about when to get out," she said.

Martinez said county officials are not planning mass evacuations of any areas, but she called on people to be prepared to evacuate on their own, and to use "common sense and good judgment."

Sandbags are now available at every fire station in the area, and she urged people to pick theirs up immediately.

"If you wait until it starts raining, it's too late," she said.

Patterson said if evacuations become necessary, authorities may use the emergency alert system, send patrol cars through certain neighborhoods, send deputies door to door, and use helicopters with loud paging systems to warn people.

In hopes of preventing mudslides in future storms, authorities are "looking for ways to divert water," and using cement netting to try to hold large rocks in place, Martinez said.

About 4 inches of rain fell in a short time Thursday morning, which Martinez said constituted a flash flood along the mountain that had been destroyed in October's wildfires.

With no vegetation to absorb the rain and resulting thick mud, the remaining trees and boulders toppled down the mountainside -- along with the campsite buildings.

After the wildfires, California officials warned about a serious risk of mudslides in damaged areas.


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