Colombia: Mudslides in Mocoa kill 234; rescue operations underway

Rini Sharma
The mudslides struck Mocoa late on Friday following days of torrential rain in the Amazon basin area.

Colombia, Apr 2: At least 234 people were killed and hundreds injured or missing as mudslides swept across Mocoa town in southernwestern Colombia destroying homes and stripping the region from basic necessities of food, water and electricity.

The mudslides, which struck late on Friday following days of torrential rain in the Amazon basin area, have swept away houses, bridges, vehicles and trees, leaving piles of wrecked timber and brown mud.

Confirming the death toll on Twitter, CNN anchor Jake Tapper posted that the death toll due to the mudslides in Colombia has risen to 234. He quoted Colombian Red Cross in his tweet.

Earlier, Colombian Red Cross chief Cesar Uruena told AFP on Saturday that 206 people are confirmed dead whereas, 202 have been reported injured and 220 are said to be missing.

Meanwhile, President Juan Manuel Santos visited Mocoa on Saturday to supervise rescue efforts in the heavily forested region. He declared a public health and safety emergency to speed up rescue and aid operations. He also expressed his condolences to victims’ families, as reported by AFP. “Some 130 millimeters of rain fell Friday night. That means 30 per cent of monthly rainfall fell on last night, which precipitated a sudden rise of several rivers,” he was quoted as saying.

Earlier on Twitter, he also promised to guarantee assistance to the victims of this tragedy. “Our prayers are with the victims and those affected,” he added.

Declaring the disaster as “an unprecedented tragedy”, Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca informed W Radio, “There are hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighbourhoods have disappeared.”

Noteworthy, the reason of the mudslides is not clear, however, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit Carlos Ivan Marquez has informed AFP that the tragedy was caused due to the rise of the Mocoa River and tributaries. Army in a statement echoed Marquez sentiments and claimed that the big avalanche was a result of the flooding of rivers.

Marquez also informed that the authorities activated a crisis group including local officials, military personnel, police and rescuers to search for missing people and begin removing mountains of debris.