A massive mudslide caused more than 200 deaths, hundreds of missing and injured in southern Colombia, following heavy rains in the Andean region, including Peru and Ecuador.
“The latest report shows 206 deaths, 202 wounded, 220 missing,” César Urueña, director of the Colombian Red Cross relief service, told AFP about the disaster that ravaged the city of Mocoa , Late Friday night.
“Our hearts are with the families of the victims and the people affected by this tragedy. We are not going to fail in our attention towards them, “twittered President Juan Manuel Santos, who went there and declared the state of” public calamity “to” speed up “relief efforts.
The images of this city of 40,000 inhabitants, deprived of electricity and running water, are impressive: streets overgrown with mud, soldiers recovering children in the rubble, inhabitants in tears, cars destroyed and waste everywhere. Two bridges were also carried, according to the army.
Speaking of a “large-scale” disaster, Urueña said 300 families were affected, 17 districts badly damaged and 25 buildings destroyed.
The mudslide was caused around 11:30 pm Friday by the flooding of three rivers overhanging Mocoa, ravaging the chief town of the Putumayo department, where water pumps and generators were shipped by air.
“There are many people on the streets, many victims, many homes destroyed,” Hernando Rodriguez, a 69-year-old resident told AFP.
According to the pensioner, “people do not know what to do”, “we were not prepared” for such a catastrophe. “We have a hard time figuring out what happened to us,” he added.
Severe rain, due to the El Niño climatic phenomenon, has been affecting the Andean region in northwestern Latin America for several weeks. They also cause flooding in Peru, where 101 deaths and more than 900,000 people have been reported to date, as well as in Ecuador, which has deplored 21 people and 1,280 displaced.
“The situation in Mocoa is dramatic. We call for the solidarity of all Colombia, “said Deputy Minister of the Interior Guillermo Rivera.
In the evening of Friday, it fell 130 milliliters of rain, 30% of the monthly average in Mocoa, Santos said. The tragedy occurred as a result of the overflowing of the Mocoa, Mulato and Sangoyaco rivers, overhanging the city, causing a “great flow” of mud, according to the army.
“We are in danger of death, the water already arrives at half the house,” said with sobs in the voice Laura Montoya, according to the website of the presidency.
“This is an unprecedented tragedy, (there are) hundreds of families that we have not yet found, entire neighborhoods disappeared,” said Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca at W Radio.
The businesses were closed after “looting of places selling water” in the night, a firefighter, David Silva, told AFP, adding that most of the affected neighborhoods were inhabited by displaced people from the armed conflict that Has been tearing Colombia since the 1960s.
Diego Suarez of the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies of Colombia (Ideam) told Caracol Radio that precipitation on Mocoa should go “gradually decreasing” from Sunday.
More than a thousand soldiers and police officers have been deployed to help, according to a statement by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas who traveled to Mocoa with the president and other members of the government.
A crisis team has been set up with the local authorities and about 150 other people involved in relief operations, the director of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD), Carlos Ivan Marquez.
The public body said in a statement that more than seven tons of water, electricity and medical supplies had been shipped to Mocoa.
France, the European Union, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela, among others, expressed their solidarity after the disaster.
“Climate change is generating dynamics and we see its serious results in terms of intensity, frequency and magnitude (…) as in Mocoa,” Martin Santiago, head of the delegation of Mocoa, told AFP. The United Nations in Colombia.