More than a dozen homes were evacuated in Rolling Hills Estates, California, after the ground shifted, causing extensive damage, Los Angeles city and county officials said.
A sewer main break triggered by earth movement forced the evacuation of five more homes Tuesday afternoon, bringing the total number of homes evacuated to 17, city officials said. said.
The incident has been unfolding since Saturday, with footage from CNN affiliate KCAL showing houses collapsing down the hillside, the structures buckling as the ground gives way.
There is no clear indication of when the ground movement might end, though city officials said that movement had slowed since Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s moved almost 20 feet since last night, and the houses we saw last night are gone,” LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn said Monday, according to KCAL.
“They have already fallen into the ravine,” Hahn, whose district includes Rolling Hills Estates, it said Monday of the affected homes Instagram. “We have back decks that are gone. We have roofs that are eye level with the driveway. I have not seen anything like this. They are completely uninhabitable.”
The Rolling Hills Estates City Council passed a resolution Tuesday night declaring a local emergency due to the land movement.
Officials became aware of “significant ground movement” along Peartree Lane on Saturday, according to the report city website. Rolling Hills Estates is a mostly residential town on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, just west of Long Beach and about 30 miles south of Los Angeles.
Firefighters were on the scene as of 1:30 p.m. that day when they identified cracks or the beginning of cracks in the foundations of 12 homes, LA County Fire Chief Anthony Marone said at a news conference Monday. Since then, Marone said, 10 homes “have been lost.”
Personnel from the county fire department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office will remain “until this situation is ultimately defused,” Marone said. “And we don’t know how long it will last. We don’t know how long these houses will continue to move.”
The cause remains unclear. Hahn told reporters it’s up to the homeowners association to hire a geologist or soil expert to discern the cause. But she theorized on Instagram that periods of heavy rain after a drought created a crack in the ground that caused the earth to shift.
Affected residents met with officials at City Hall on Monday, Rolling Hills Estates Mayor Britt Huff said.
Los Angeles County Assessor Jeff Prang said property owners would be entitled to property tax breaks.
Rolling Hills Estates, with a population of about 8,000, has a median household income of about $160,000, according to data from US Census Bureau.