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Six bodies recovered after mudslides

Ten people thought missing in San Bernardino

Mudslides in San Bernardino County swept through homes, carrying off furniture and other debris.
Mudslides in San Bernardino County swept through homes, carrying off furniture and other debris.

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CNN's Miguel Marquez talks with a search leader about the treacherous rescue effort.
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Rescue workers fight heavy mudslides in San Bernardino County, California.
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SAN BERNARDINO, California (CNN) -- Six bodies have been found in the aftermath of two powerful mudslides Friday, and officials said 10 people are still missing.

Dozens of rescue workers will work through the night Friday, sheriff's department spokesman Chip Patterson said.

In the worst-hit area, San Bernardino's Old Waterman Canyon, four bodies have been found. They were not immediately identified.

Rescue officials also found two bodies in washed-out areas of Devore, about 10 miles northwest.

Patterson said the missing, all in San Bernardino, included children between 6 months and 16 years.

All are family and friends of the caretaker for a campsite in Old Waterman Canyon, Patterson said. They had been in a building owned by St. Sophia Church that was suddenly flooded in the mudslide, he said.

"We will continue looking urgently until we find more bodies -- or hopefully survivors," Patterson told reporters. "We're bringing in lights, generators, and much of our search teams, all of them, will have head lamps.

"We're going to keep looking until the decision is made to stop -- and this could go on days or longer. You're all aware of survival stories that have gone on for days."

Cars were found near the camp, and it was not known if some belonged to people who were not at the campsite, San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said.

Other people could be missing, she said.

Both mudslides were in areas devastated by wildfires in October -- confirming fears expressed by officials at the time that the lack of vegetation after those fires could leave them vulnerable.

In the months since, helicopters have dropped straw while work crews planted mulch. Despite the efforts, there was far from enough vegetation to prevent the mudslides, which easily toppled many of the remaining, barren trees in their paths.

Several homes that had been saved by firefighters in October were lost Friday.

Martinez told reporters the department had "put out numerous warnings about flash flood watches, rock slides, and mud slides" in the media, letting people know that if they were going to be in areas damaged by the wildfires they should be prepared with heavy clothing and a full tank of gas -- and beware of rain.

Also, county officials have "been trying to prepare for this, to divert mud away from homes in case of torrential rains."

The mudslides hit areas that were ravaged by wildfires in October.
The mudslides hit areas that were ravaged by wildfires in October.

But, she said, "there's just no way -- it just came so quickly."

Rescue crews were on the scene quickly after the mudslides early Friday.

Crews with saws saved one man trapped under part of a heavy, toppled tree and up to his waist in mud.

Patterson said 14 people were rescued in San Bernardino. Between 65 and 75 search and rescue workers are on the ground, he said. At least 32 people were rescued in Devore, fire officials said.

Three bridges in the Old Waterman Canyon area were wiped away, trapping about 15 people in their homes, fire officials said. Officials airlifted people with special medical needs, Patterson said.

Patterson said rescue crews on the scene are "slowly but surely" trying to find survivors.

Martinez said rescuers remain optimistic.

"We're not going up there to locate dead bodies," she said. "We're going up there to find the folks that survived this horrible incident."

She said crews are searching "from the top down," removing layers of trees and debris to see what can be found beneath.

More mudslides are possible, said Patterson.

"I've heard of possible rain on Sunday. It's a concern anywhere in our county right now. We have two incidents, but we could have more."


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