Colombia: 154 dead after rivers overflow, toppling homes

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Colombia: 154 dead after rivers overflow, toppling homes

Bogota, Apr 2 (AP) An avalanche of water from three overflowing rivers swept through a small city in Colombia while people slept, destroying homes, sweeping away cars and killing at least 154 unsuspecting residents.

The incident triggered by intense rains happened around midnight in Mocoa, a provincial capital of about 40,000 tucked between mountains near Colombia’s southern border with Ecuador.

Muddy water and debris quickly surged through the city’s streets, toppling homes, ripping trees from their roots and carrying them downstream. Many of the residents did not have enough time to climb on top of their roofs or seek refuge on higher ground.

According to the Red Cross, 400 people were injured and 220 believed missing. President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency yesterday and said the death toll will likely rise but warned against speculating how many people are dead.

“We don’t know how many there are going to be,” he said of the fatalities when he arrived at the disaster zone to oversee rescue efforts. “We’re still looking.”

Eduardo Vargas, 29, was asleep with his wife and 7-month-old baby when he was awoken by the sound of neighbors banging on his door. He quickly grabbed his family and fled up a small mountain amid the cries of people in panic.

“There was no time for anything,” he said.

Vargas and his family huddled with about two dozen other residents as rocks, trees and wooden planks ripped through their neighborhood below. They waited there until daylight, when members of the military helped them down.

When he reached the site of his home yesterday, he found nothing but rocks and mud.

“Thank God we have our lives,” he said.

As rescuers assessed the full scope of the damage, many residents in Moncoa continued a desperate search for friends and relatives. (AP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.