The severe weather that has accompanied this year’s second winter season and is causing extensive flooding and damage to transportation infrastructure along the coast, gave Colombian President Gustavo Petro reason to declare on Monday a state of “national disaster” and powers for the national government to release funds for disaster relief. “We will have greater economic capacity to spend immediately,” stated the leftist leader from one of the hardest hit coastal departments – César.
The intense rainfall that began mid-September is also impacting the Andean highlands, including the capital Bogotá, where rain is being accompanied by powerful electric storms. During a visit to the town of Bosconia, President Petro highlighted that the “national disaster” declaration will alleviate the financial burden of 726 municipalities affected by rains, and with additional resources, local governments can guarantee food supplies, relocate families and assist populations during the weather emergency.
“The situation has grown so much that municipalities cannot, nor departments themselves, effectively solve the problems arising from a climate disaster,” stated Petro. “Sometimes isolating persons from a stream or a river turns out to be almost like depriving them of food for life,” he added.
President Petro placed the blame for the severe weather across Colombia on global warming. “The climate crisis is not a product of nature, but one of humankind. The atmosphere is reacting more violently against us because the atmosphere has changed,” he stated. “The governments of the world, only talk about climate change when disaster strikes.”
An estimated 90,000 persons have been impacted by the second rainy season of the year, and among the worst-hit departments for weather-related incidents, are Huila, Antioquia, Valle, and Cundinamarca.
Among the regions that have been affected this year by extreme weather is the department of La Guajira when tropical storm Julia generated huge amounts of rainfall throughout this arid peninsula. Julia’s potentially devastating path across the Caribbean left large swathes of of northeastern Colombia isolated from the rest of the country.