A landslide swept away a chunk of an upscale hilltop neighborhood, destroying a home, damaging five others and opening up a 50-meter chasm in a four-lane road.
Officials ordered 111 homes in the La Jolla neighborhood evacuated. No one was hurt in the collapse, which occurred Wednesday morning after city officials warned residents of four homes not to sleep in them because the land might give way.
The collapse shortly before 9 a.m. (1600 GMT) toppled power lines and left a 20-foot-deep (6-meter-deep) ravine. Orange traffic cones and sections of big concrete pipes sat in the fissure slashing across the crumpled residential street.
Holli Weld was walking her son to preschool when the street collapsed.
"It was sinking as I was walking by," she said. "The street was sinking before our eyes."
Authorities said most residents had gone to work and only seven people were inside the homes when the collapse occurred.
The landslide cut a cone shape through the neighborhood of million-dollar homes, said Robert Hawk, a city engineering geologist. Six homes were damaged or destroyed and two others were in danger, but the problems appeared to be contained.
By early Wednesday evening, authorities had escorted 49 people out of 55 homes, said Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. They had declared another 56 homes off-limits. Many homes that were not in the immediate slide zone were yellow-tagged - meaning that occupants could come and go, but not stay overnight.
At least three significant hill slides have occurred in the area between 1961 and 1994, including a major failure in 1961 that destroyed seven homes under construction.