Video: Mudslide causes financial hardship

By Michael Okwu Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/5/2005 8:08:13 PM ET 2005-03-06T01:08:13

There's not much left of Albert Alves' dream house but shattered windows.

"You can see it's dropped a good three-and-a-half feet," says Alves.

A tour of this home now receding into the earth yields heartbreaking views of a kitchen and a family room.

"I never thought we lived in a neighborhood where this could happen," says Alves.

Alves lived in Pomona, Calif. with his wife Michelle and their seven-year-old son Jordan. But since last week's storms they've been sharing a cramped hotel room paid for by the hotel's owner. The Alves' house was rocked from its foundation in the rains and a now-shifting hillside.

They paid $165,000 for the house 10 years ago, then watched it triple in value. But today, their sanctuary is worthless.

"It's gotten to the point where my anxiety has gotten me physically ill," says Michelle Alves. "Every day I come out here and I'm waiting for my house to fall or be torn down."

The Alves are now paying $350 a month to store all their belongings. In addition to their normal monthly bills they're still obligated to spend more than $1,300 on a house they can't even live in.

And even though they thought they were prepared, they've found there's no safety net for this kind of financial disaster. Home insurance doesn't cover mudslides. It's right there in the exemptions. Insurers say such disasters are too risky to cover.

"We'd have to charge a price that would be so high, so exorbitant that nobody would buy it," says Sam Sorich, the president of the Association of California Insurance Companies.

The Alves are so desperate they've sprayed their number on the front of the house hoping someone will help.

"Most people don't have a reason to think about it, so when it happens it's a great surprise and it's terrifying," says engineer John Lohman, who has inspected the soil at the Alves home and says it's moving 9-10 inches per day.

The Alves are waiting to hear whether they will qualify for an on-average $2,500 federal grant, but that could take weeks they say they don't have. They must leave their hotel next Thursday.

"I wish I could look at my wife and my son and say, 'you know what, as a father I'm going to take care of you,'" says Albert Alves. "But I really don't have answers to that. I don't know where we're going to be at that point."

The Alves thought they were living the American dream in a place they called paradise, until the ground literally fell out from under them.

Early Saturday, after another night of rain, authorities demolished their house. They say it just wasn't safe.

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