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Embattled Los Angeles Now Fights Mud Flows

HILLSIDES that belched mud on and into homes during Monday's driving rain stood stable a day later as threats of more rain failed to materialize. The mostly sunny weather gave southern California residents a chance to start shoveling out. But, despite day and night efforts, crews were still clearing goo Wednesday from the Pacific Coast Highway.

Mud has caused some $1.6 million in damage to 25 homes; one was destroyed, said sheriff's Deputy Diane Hecht. Hillsides are weak from fall fires in Malibu's mountains. Flood victims in wildfire zones could get federal disaster aid. Mud in wildfire-hit Altadena chased residents from 40 more homes.

Meanwhile, cleanup from the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake will cost less than originally thought, as state officials have lowered damage estimates from $30 billion to $20 billion. ``I think $13 billion to $20 billion is probably where we're going to end up,'' Richard Andrews, Office of Emergency Services director, said Tuesday. Russell Gould, the governor's finance director, put government cleanup costs at $11.6 billion: federal, $9.5 billion; state, $1.9 billion; and local, $135 million.

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