California landslide halts rail service, homes evacuated

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) — A landslide in Southern California has closed a historic cultural center, shut down rail service in the area and forced the evacuation of nearby residences, officials said.

The slope on the western side of Casa Romantica and Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente dropped about 20 feet (about 6 meters) on Thursday afternoon after several days of minor earth movement, city officials said in a news release. The building was closed and a geologist is monitoring its stability, officials said. Casa Romantica announced that it was temporarily closed and all events were canceled after the landslide on its ocean terrace.

Four adjacent residential units were red-tagged as unsafe and evacuated, officials said.

Falling debris halted rail service on two Metrolink lines and Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, officials said.

After torrential rains earlier this month, residents of three clifftop apartment buildings and one nearby building in San Clemente fled their homes when the land began to shift and slide away from their backyards and they were warned they might not be allowed back for a while.

Cracking appeared in the terrace at Casa Romantica on April 16, and the City Council approved spending $75,000 for a local geological firm’s assessment, the Ocean County Register reported. Crews were drilling to install equipment to measure movement Thursday morning when the earth began moving, Councilmember Kevin Knoblock told the newspaper.

More than a dozen atmospheric rivers hit California this past winter, causing widespread damage. The threat of flooding continues as the massive mountain snowpack left by the storms begins to melt.

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