Woman feared dead in Colorado mudslide is found alive after flash floods sweep away her home in disaster that killed 53-year-old driver
- 4ft wall of mud and water destroyed six homes and damaged 30 others
- Residents recall harrowing ordeal of scrambling to safety
- Area more vulnerable to flooding since wildfires struck last year
- Victim John Collins remembered for playing Santa each Christmas
By Jessica Jerreat
PUBLISHED: 08:57 EST, 13 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:13 EST, 13 August 2013
A woman who was reported missing after a mudslide and flash flood, that killed a 53-year-old driver and knocked down houses, has been found safe, it emerged today.
Six homes were destroyed and about 30 others were damaged when the mudslide and flash flooding hit Manitou Spring after heavy rain fell in an area destroyed by wildfire last year.
Many people were forced to cling to trees and scramble up cliffs by the sides of roads to escape the torrent of mud and silt.
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Trail of destruction: A pick up truck is crushed under boulders and trees uprooted by the flood
Tide of debris: Rubble and branches were swept into yards and houses
As heavy rain continued to fall on the small city, residents and business owners did their best to salvage belongings and clear up the damage, while wrecked cars were towed from the streets and highway.
The area has become more vulnerable to flash floods after damage caused by wildfires last year left the scorched soil less able to absorb water.
'This is the first year of the burn scar. We've got nine more years of this,' Colorado Springs fire lieutenant Steve Schopper said.
When the storm hit on Friday it swept mud, boulders and other debris into Manitou Springs, which has a population of about 5,000 people.
Initial reports said two people had been killed but one of them, a woman who asked not to be identified, was later found safe.
Another woman has revealed details of her dramatic escape, after her rental home was swept away by a 4ft wall of mud and floodwater.
'I lost everything, but I survived it. I'm so happy I survived,' Laura Hunter said.
Forceful: The 4ft wall of mud and floodwater wrecked cars and homes when it hit
Rescued: Laura Hunter was pulled to safety after being trapped by the floodwater, which swept away her home
Clean up: Volunteers help clear mud from a cafe in Manitou Springs
Ms Hunter was at home when
water started coming in her living room window. She said she went to the
front door thinking she would be able to head to higher ground, but was swept
The 49-year-old, who broke her leg in the ordeal, managed to grab hold of a tree and then crawl to a ridge where neighbors rescued her.
Her rented home was washed away, but a firefighter returned her ID and bank cards and a friend salvaged her bicycle.
long-term goals are just to be really grateful for my life, and I want
to form really healthy relationships. That's the most
important thing to me now,' she told reporters at Penrose Hospital, Colorado Springs.
The mudslides claimed the life of one victim. John Collins, 53, was killed when the mudslide hit Highway 24. John Collins, of Teller County, was found buried under debris next to his car, El Paso police said.
It was not clear if Mr Collins, who had been driving home from work, had tried to flee on foot or whether the force of the mudslide pushed him from his car.
Help: A boy helps volunteers as they ruined stock from shops and businesses
Blocked: Banks of silt and vegetation are cleared from the roads
Unstable: A firefighter checks a mud-spattered house that was wrecked in the flood
Wrecked: Pastor Dan Parton walks through the mud-filled basement of the Timberline Baptist Church
Damage: Parts of a road were washed away, leaving the safety barrier hanging perilously over a sheer drop
Clean up: Volunteers and construction workers try to clear the silt and debris as more heavy rain falls
Friends remembered him as a gentle man who enjoyed gardening and dressing as Santa at Christmas.
'It was always the highlight of my children's Christmas to be able to sit on his lap,' family friend Jessica Russ-Medovich told the Gazette. 'It was something that they will never forget.'
As more heavy rain fell yesterday, residents tried to salvage their belongings and secure their homes from further damage.
Many have been forced to clean up and rebuild their homes before, according to CBS Denver, and some said they were not sure if they could cope with doing it again.
Swarms of volunteers have arrived to help residents clear away the banks of silt left in homes and businesses.
However, a woman who lives close to the Timberline Baptist Church said looters were seen rifling through items volunteers had salvaged from the church and left to clean to the parking lot.
'They were going through the stuff, just seeing what they could get,' the woman told CBS Denver.
At least 20 cars were swept away on Friday. Kathryn Presnal, of Cascade, recounted how she ran from her car and scrambled up a cliff by the road, pulling another driver up with her, as the flood hit.
Danger: A woman runs for cover as heavy rain continues to fall, bring fears of more flash floods
Prepared: Residents stack sandbags along the streets to try to prevent further flooding
Salvage: Business owners stack up items they have managed to pull out of their ruined shops
Heartbreaking: Neighbors comfort each other after the floods, which are likely to hit again because of wildfire damage
Community spirit: Residents help clear out mud from businesses and homes
'I grabbed her hand and pulled her up,' the Colorado Springs school principal said. 'We stood there and watched our cars float away.'
City officials are trying to protect the area from further flood damage, including building 11 catch basins.
'With the amount of rain that we
received Friday, nothing that we could have done could have prevented
the kind of flooding we had,' Dave Hunting, a spokesman for the city government said. 'Just Mother Nature doing
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