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Mocoa, Colombia - Colombia Mudslide, Flooding Kill 254 In Midnight Deluge

Published on: April 1, 2017 08:39 PM
By: Reuters
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A handout photo made available by the Colombian Army shows soldiers and inhabitants evacuating a victim after a landslide in Mocoa, province of Putumayo, Colombia, 01 April 2017.A handout photo made available by the Colombian Army shows soldiers and inhabitants evacuating a victim after a landslide in Mocoa, province of Putumayo, Colombia, 01 April 2017.

Colombia -  Flooding and mudslides in the Colombian city of Mocoa sent torrents of water and debris crashing onto houses in the early hours of Saturday morning, killing 254 people, injuring hundreds and sending terrified residents, some in their pajamas, scrambling to evacuate.

Heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks onto buildings and roads in the provincial capital of Mocoa and immobilizing cars in several feet of mud.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos flew to Mocoa, population 345,000, to oversee rescue efforts on the city outskirts and speak with affected families.

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“We will do everything possible to help them,” Santos said after confirming the death toll. “It breaks my heart.”

Officials were working to determine the number of missing, Santos said. Nearly 200 people were injured, the defense ministry said, and more than 1,100 soldiers and police officers were called in to dig people out.

“We have sent a team of 150 people to make our response effective and machinery began work immediately,” Carlos Ivan Marquez, head of the national disaster unit, said in a statement.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (4th R) gestures while visiting a flooded area after heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads in Mocoa, Colombia April 1, 2017.  Cesar Carrion/Colombian Presidency/Handout via ReutersColombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (4th R) gestures while visiting a flooded area after heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads in Mocoa, Colombia April 1, 2017.  Cesar Carrion/Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Even in a country where heavy rains, a mountainous landscape and informal construction of homes combine to make landslides a common occurrence, the scale of the Mocoa disaster was daunting. By comparison, a 2015 landslide killed nearly 80 people in Salgar, Antioquia.

“It’s a big area,” Mocoa Mayor Jose Antonio Castro, who lost his house, told Caracol radio on Saturday. “A big portion of the many houses were just taken by the avalanche.”

He said that people were warned ahead of time and many were able to get out, but several neighborhoods and two bridges had been destroyed.

Photos posted on Twitter by the air force showed neighborhood streets filled with mud and damaged houses, while videos on social media showed residents searching for survivors in the debris and struggling to move through waist-high water during the night.

An aerial view shows a flooded area after heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads in Mocoa, Colombia April 1, 2017.  Cesar Carrion/Colombian Presidency/Handout via ReutersAn aerial view shows a flooded area after heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads in Mocoa, Colombia April 1, 2017.  Cesar Carrion/Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters
 A handout photo made available by the Colombian Army shows a soldier helping inhabitants during the rescue operations after a landslide in Mocoa, province of Putumayo, Colombia, 01 April 2017.  EPA A handout photo made available by the Colombian Army shows a soldier helping inhabitants during the rescue operations after a landslide in Mocoa, province of Putumayo, Colombia, 01 April 2017.  EPA
A handout picture provided by the Colombian Ombudsman's Office shows the destruction caused by an avalanche in Mocoa, Colombia, 01 April 2017. EPAA handout picture provided by the Colombian Ombudsman's Office shows the destruction caused by an avalanche in Mocoa, Colombia, 01 April 2017. EPA
A handout picture provided by the Colombian Army shows soldiers work to rescue victims of a landslide in Mocoa, Colombia, 1 April 2017. EPAA handout picture provided by the Colombian Army shows soldiers work to rescue victims of a landslide in Mocoa, Colombia, 1 April 2017. EPA


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