Death toll from Colombia landslide stands at 34 victims

View of the landslide that claimed 34 lives in Pueblo Rico, Risaralda. Photo: UNGRD

The deaths of at least 34 persons who were buried in vehicles and an intermunicipal bus when heavy rains caused a landslide early Sunday in the department of Risaralda is the most recent weather-related tragedy to impact Colombia. The mounting fatalities that also claimed the lives of eight youngsters inside the bus that was traveling from the southwestern city of Cali to Condono (Chocó), led Colombian President Gustavo Petro to express “solidarity with the families of the victims” and update the initial number of victims. President Petro added that the families will receive “comprehensive support from the national government.”

The heavy rains that have resulted in widespread flooding along the Caribbean coast and landslides in the mountainous interior of the country is being caused by the climate pattern La Niña, as well as cold air moving in from the southern hemisphere. The high levels of precipitation that has also resulted in extensive damage to road infrastructure are expected to last until at March 2023. According to the country’s National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD), 226 persons have died so far this year in extreme weather incidents and almost double the 126 who perished in 2021. The UNGRD also confirmed that the unit has attended to some 3,000 climate-related emergencies in 800 municipalities of the country. Emergencies that have affected more than 540,000 citizens.

As emergency crews continue to search through rubble for the victims of Sunday’s landslide in one of Colombia’s most important coffee-growing regions, the inclement weather has stumped production of the crop and resulted also in a shortage of laborers to hand pick the crop. An extended La Niña could have devastating effects on supply of one of the country’s leading exports.