This photo released by the Colombian Army press office shows soldiers carrying a corpse following mudslides caused by heavy rains, in Mocoa, Putumayo department, on April 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
A river in south Colombia has burst into its banks, triggering an avalanche of water that moved debris into homes overnight, killing at least 112 people.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday that at least 112 people had been confirmed dead as a result of river flows and mudslide in Mocoa, a city of 350,000 people located near Colombia’s border with Ecuador.
Santos was due to land in Mocoa to personally supervise the rescue operation.
He said earlier on his Twitter account that his trip to the capital of Putumayo would “guarantee attention to the victims of this tragedy, which has all Colombians in mourning.”
This photo released by the Colombian Army press office shows the damage caused by mudslide following heavy rains, in Mocoa, Putumayo department, on April 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Earlier in the day, police commander Colonel Omar Bonilla told local radio station Caracol commander said that mudslide in the city had killed at least 93 people, adding that hundreds had been also injured in the tragedy.
The river reportedly overflowed overnight, Carlos Ivan Marquez with Colombia’s national disaster agency said, adding that the number of deaths could climb as many were still missing in various neighborhoods affected by the floods.
“Hundreds of families” had yet to be found and the whole neighborhoods were missing, said governor Sorrel Aroca of the Putumayo department, calling the development “an unprecedented tragedy.”
This photo released by the Colombian Army press office shows people carrying a woman after mudslide following heavy rains, in Mocoa, Putumayo department, on April 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
A crisis group was also formed, comprising of local officials, military units, police and rescue teams to better handle the search and rescue operations. Teams were also scrambled to begin the removal of hundreds of tons of debris.
“We have sent a team of 150 people to make our response effective and machinery began work immediately,” Marquez said, adding, “We will be with the governor and the mayor giving all necessary attention.”
Mocoa Mayor Jose Antonio Castro said the mudslide had affected a vast patch of land, adding that scores of neighborhoods in the city had been completely flattened.
“It’s a big area. A big portion of the many houses were just taken by the avalanche but above all the people were warned with enough time and they were able to get out but houses in 17 neighborhoods have basically been erased,” Castro said.
Landslides are common in Colombia, a country known for its mountainous landscape and heavy rains.
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