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Mudslide Death Toll Rises To 15

A 12-year-old boy is still missing from the Christmas Day flash floods and mudslides that killed a confirmed 15 people, including eight children.

Edgar Meza is the last unaccounted-for member of a group of family and friends who gathered at a church camp on Christmas before muddy water roared down through the San Bernardino Mountains, sweeping away people and two buildings.

"We're not going to stop looking for him," said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. "Throughout the coming days and weeks we're gonna have search dogs going throughout the area and hopefully we can find him too."

The search for Meza is likely to be suspended Tuesday because of a powerful new Pacific storm expected to douse the area, Patterson said Monday.

The National Weather Service forecast 1 to 3 inches of rain and posted flash flood watches from San Luis Obispo County south through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to Los Angeles, and east and south through San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange and San Diego counties. Gale warnings and small craft advisories went up along the coast.

Authorities warn that the southern-moving storm could bring more flash floods and mudslides to mountain slopes already bogged down with water and stripped of trees by the recent wildfires.

"The bad news is, it's already rained up there so the soil's already saturated," said weather specialist Stuart Seto at the Oxnard NWS office. "It probably can't hold much more."

On Monday, searchers found the body of a baby in Waterman Canyon below the St. Sophia camp. Eight-month-old Jeremias Monzon was the son of Jorge Monzon, 41, the caretaker of St. Sophia Camp, and his wife, Clara, 40, whose bodies were found Sunday.

Also Monday, state officials said that six weeks before Christmas they had warned the manager of a trailer camp where other two people were killed to remove trailers from the property, citing safety concerns.

Janice Arlene Stout-Bradley, 60, the manager of the Kampgrounds of America trailer camp, and Carol Eugene Nuss, 57, died when a flood swept through the camp about five miles to the west in Devore.

After surveying hundreds of sites in the San Bernardino Mountains, the California Geological Survey identified the camp as posing the greatest risk for loss of life and property, according to that office.

A geological survey report found that a channel about 80 feet wide could sweep water, mud, and large boulders into parked trailers.

"We told the manager the best thing to do was evacuate," said Tom Spittler, the office's senior engineering geologist.

One of the owners of the camp, John Gordon, said that as far as he knew, he never received notification from anyone.

At the St. Sophia camp, which serves Greek Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles area, family and friends had apparently gathered to celebrate Christmas after an invitation by the Monzon family. Many of the guests, 14 of whom escaped the floods, were Guatemalan immigrants who attended a San Bernardino church.

Monzon, who lived at the camp with his family in a two-room apartment, did not have permission to hold the gathering, said Father John Bakas, dean of St. Sophia Cathedral of Los Angeles.

"Having 20, 25 people there without our knowledge was something we would not have encouraged," he said. "None of us knew. It's one thing to have your uncle and your aunt over ... it's another thing to be using the extended grounds and facilities unsupervised."

The camp will remain closed indefinitely, Bakas said.

Bakas and a few members of the congregation went to the camp Monday to hold a memorial service, praying "for the souls of those who perished there," he said.

"We're devastated," he said. "We're concerned about the human loss. We are a faith community committed to try to do what we can to try to make some sense of this."

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