Colombian mudslide kills hundreds

Search for survivors ongoing

Source: Cesar Carrion/Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters

There are still people searching for their loved ones among the wreckage left behind by a massive mudslide in Mocoa, Colombia in the early hours of April 1, 2017. Estimates of the amount killed by this natural disaster range from 210 to 250, with hundreds more injured or missing. Electricity has yet to return to the provincial capital that housed about 40,000 inhabitants near the Colombia-Ecuador border. Drinking water is also in scant supply.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency on Saturday and blamed the disaster on climate change, pointing to the sudden increase in precipitation on Friday night, in which a third of the rain expected in an entire month came down in a span of hours.

While this isn’t even the worst landslide in Colombian history (that would be the Armero landslide in 1985, which killed over 20,000), this did take a deep toll on the local community nonetheless. Many Mocoans spent their entire weekend, day and night, combing the debris for remains of their family members. Hundreds of residents are now staying in emergency housing for the time being. Thanks to foreign aid, families of the dead have been promised $6,400 towards hospital and funeral services as well as general aid.

Despite this aid, there are still issues resulting from the rural environment of this disaster. The regional hospital in Mocoa was not equipped for such an influx of patients, and had its blood bank decimated very quickly. Some hospital employees had to come into work while their own relatives were missing, which obviously affected their focus.

When interviewed, the desperation in many of the searchers’ voices were palpable. “I need to know where they are, if they are injured or where to find them. If they are dead, please God deliver them to me,” was the plea of Maria Lilia Tisoy, who was looking for her pregnant daughter and her 4-year-old granddaughter.

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