After a month of intense rainfall across Colombia, tragedy struck Mocoa, the capital of the Putumayo department around 1:00 am Saturday when three major rivers broke their banks causing an avalanche in which 154 people have died.
According to the department’s governor Sorrei Aroca, the natural disaster caused by the overflow of the Mocoa, Mulato and Sancoyaco rivers has left at least 200 injured, destroyed neighborhoods and collapsed bridges. Emergency teams in the disaster-hit city claim many persons may have been swept away by the mudflow and are looking for possible survivors in the rivers.
President Juan Manuel Santos Tweeted early Saturday that he ordered the National Army and country’s Disaster Relief Unit, Unidad Nacional para la Gestión del Riesgo de Desastres, to the zone. The president traveled to Mocoa to see for himself the extent of the destruction.
Eyewitnesses claim there is severe devastation in 17 neighborhoods, among them San Miguel, San Fernando, Independencia, San Agustín and Progreso.
Mocoa’s mayor José Antonio Castro, claims a large part of the city has been impacted and hospitals urgently need medicine, surgical equipment to attend to the victims.
With a population of 65,000, Mocoa is an important agricultural hub and base of operations for multinational oil companies in southern Colombia.
Images surfacing on social media with the hashtag #TodosConMocoa show of extensive damage. At 2:00 am Colombia’s Red Cross first reported a disaster of “great magnitude.”
More than 1,000 soldiers and police are helping to recover bodies and on Saturday afternoon the first shipment of humanitarian aid arrived in Mocoa from the capital, Bogotá.
The United Nations, France and Venezuela have offered help to the victims of this natural disaster.
A emergency alert was issued by the country’s weather institute, IDEAM, for the neighboring department of Nariño regarding the threat of avalanches and extensive flooding from major rivers.
The national government believes the death toll climb to 200 over the weekend as emergency response teams continue to search for bodies in the rubble.