13 people found dead in California due to winter storms

by IANS |

San Francisco, March 11 (IANS) Thirteen people have been found dead following historic storms since late February that buried the mountain communities in Southern California under snow, authorities said.

According to the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office, it responded to 13 deaths in the mountains from February 26 to March 8, when a series of snowstorms lashed the area, covering homes and paralysing travel, reports Xinhua news agency.

The coroner has so far only confirmed one of the deaths was weather-related, while eight other deaths were under investigation.

The victim having a direct correlation to the storm was a 39-year-old woman, who died at the hospital as the result of a car crash during a heavy snow.

Many of the deceased had significant medical histories or chronic conditions, and Elinor "Dolly" Avenatti, 93, was one of them.

Valli Compton, a great niece of Avenatti, told the San Bernardino Sun newspaper that the old lady was found dead in her living room on March 6 when a neighbour broke down the door after Avenatti didn't respond to knocks.

She noted that the power in the house had gone out, leaving Avenatti without heat or the ability to call out on her landline.

"There's going to be a lot more," Megan Vazquez, a volunteer taking part in the rescue works in the mountain communities, told local KTLA news channel.

"It's been very cold here. It's been below freezing, so if somebody didn't have electricity or gas to heat their home, they may have frozen to death."

Snow as deep as over three meters blocked road access to mountain areas, leaving stranded locals to fend for themselves without power as supplies of food, medicine and fuel were dwindling, local media reported.

California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the area on March 1, and formally requested a presidential emergency declaration on Thursday night to response to the severe storms impacting the state as a new series of atmospheric rivers flowed into the state the same day.

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