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Deaths and widespread damage in violent California storms

20 January 2023


A flooded area in Byron, Contra Costa County, California, on Tuesday

A flooded area in Byron, Contra Costa County, California, on Tuesday

WEEKS of violent storms in California have caused deadly landslips, mudslides, and floods, which have left at least 19 people dead, and buildings, including churches, submerged.

There was fresh rainfall on Monday night after weeks of torrential rain, and millions of people remain under flood watch. Whole areas — including Montecito, home to Prince Harry, Oprah Winfrey, and other famous residents — were evacuated.

A five-year-old boy, Kyle Doan, whose family had attended a church in the diocese of El Camino Real, is still missing after being swept from his mother’s arms by floodwater as they tried to escape from their car.

California has suffered a long period of drought, but intense storms have brought more than six months of rain in just over two weeks.

In the San Francisco Bay area, at least four churches have been damaged by flooding. The diocese of California’s Canon for Communications, Stephanie Martin Taylor, said that the Good Shepherd, Belmont; the Holy Child and St Martin, Daly City; the Transfiguration, San Mateo; and St Columba’s, Inverness, had all suffered flood damage.

Other churches have opened as shelters, such as Christ Church, Alameda, which had expanded its winter shelter programme to help homeless people affected by flooding. The Rector, the Revd Stephan McHale, told ABC News that conditions for homeless people had been dire: they were living in tents in standing water, and in leaking vehicles.

President Biden declared a major disaster, and ordered the release of federal funds to three counties that have endured the worst of the flooding. He was due to visit affected areas yesterday. The forecast for the rest of this week was drier for the area, leading to hopes that communities could begin to start to repair the damage caused by the storms.

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