LA CONCHITA, Calif. -- Rescuers with listening devices sensitive enough to pick up a whimper or faint tapping searched yesterday for victims feared buried in a mudslide that sent a thunderous cascade of trees and dirt onto this seaside hamlet, killing at least six people.
There was hope of finding survivors because searchers were discovering spaces under the debris large enough to hold people, Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper said as darkness fell on the rescue effort for a second night. Authorities said about a dozen people were missing and 10 had been injured.
Neighbors and relatives of the missing watched in agony as rescuers hauled away dirt bucket by bucket and looked for signs of life. Commands for quiet would bring activity to a halt as rescuers lowered microphones into the debris to listen for survivors.
''I know they've got to be there. I'm not going to stop," Jimmie Wallet said as he desperately searched for his wife and three children, ages 2, 6 and 10. His face and clothes were caked in mud after digging for hours.
The mudslide was a byproduct of a ferocious string of storms that have claimed at least 21 lives around the state since Friday. The heavy rain has left bluffs and hillsides soaked, raising the risk of more mudslides like the one that devastated La Conchita on Monday.
The dirt flowed like a waterfall, engulfing more than a dozen homes in a four-block area of the town, 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Panicked residents ran as tons of mud closed in on them. Others ran toward the mudslide, helping some of the injured reach safety.
Fifteen homes were destroyed and 16 were damaged. Estimates of the missing had been as high as 27, but Roper said it was fixed at 13 after the list was refined. The missing included three children, he said.
Yellow-clad firefighters and prison crews in orange suits clambered over the dark brown mound, using their hands, shovels, buckets, wheelbarrows, and chainsaws.
The initial work was done by hand, but by afternoon, a backhoe was brought in to move larger debris. Tow trucks removed flattened vehicles.
''There are a lot of residents here waiting on loved ones, and we can't give up yet," said Captain Conrad Quintana of the Ventura County Fire Department.
All the while, a still-unstable cliff towered above them. Onlookers were given air horns and told to sound them if they saw any sign that the hillside was starting to give way again.
The fourth and fifth bodies were discovered yesterday. The victims include three men in their 50s and a woman.
Wallet, the man who spent the night digging for his wife and children, was briefly handcuffed and detained after trying to run past a barricade.
''I have to get my kid! I have to get my kid!" Wallet screamed before he was taken into a command post. Later he was allowed to return to the mound.
Wallet had gone to pick up ice cream when the mudslide hit. Emerging from a store, he watched the dirt curve toward his block. He sprinted to his home, but it was buried under the muck.
Wallet's story is one of several harrowing ordeals from the storms in Southern California: A man's body was found wedged in a tree in a canyon; an 18-year-old was killed when her car hit a fallen tree; a 79-year-old woman was run over and killed by her husband, who could not see her because of the downpour.
Firefighters used a raft to rescue an 8-week-old baby, but it tipped over and flung everyone into the water. Two firefighters went into the rushing water after the baby, and one of them managed to carry the child to safety.
The baby's mother, Erica Henderson, told ABC's ''Good Morning America" that despite her efforts to hoist the child above her head, her son William swallowed water as they were being washed away together.
''I thought I was going to lose him at that point," she said. ''I pumped his chest with my hand and . . . he spit up some water. He was still breathing."
A member of the rescue team later blamed the woman for the accident. Larry Collins told KNBC-TV that Henderson agreed to leave the cabin where they were rescued only if she could hold the baby herself. He said Henderson caused the raft to flip because she was being ''uncooperative" and ''wasn't following instructions."
The National Weather Service said downtown Los Angeles had recorded its wettest 15 consecutive days since record-keeping began in 1877, a total of 17 inches falling in the period ending Monday. No rain was forecast through the weekend.