Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos arrived Saturday morning in Mocoa, capital of the southern department of Putumayo to see the extent of the devastation caused by a landslide that swept through 17 neighborhoods after midnight killing at least 112 and injuring 400.
Intensive rains across Colombia and which have caused widespread destruction across Peru last month caused three major rivers in this southern department to break their banks, sending mud and debris into this city of 50,000.
Upon his arrival in Mocoa, Santos declared a state of emergency and promised that all efforts would be made by emergency teams, the National Army and Fire Departments to find survivors. “It has just been reported to me that we have 112 people dead. We will keep looking,” said Santos.
Accompanied by the governor of department Sorrel Aroca and Carlos Iván Márquez, head of the national disaster response unit, Santos remarked: “We will take care of the wounded, we will start the whole funeral process to care for all the deceased and […] begin to reestablish the services that were suspended.”
The head of state explained to the media that Friday night saw heavy rainfall, 30 percent more than that which usually falls during a month in Mocoa, and that this circumstance, caused the sudden overflow of rivers and streams. Given the magnitude of the disaster, authorities believe the death toll will continue to rise as hundreds are still unaccounted for.
President Santos ordered 1,000 soldiers and 300 police to the Putumayo department Saturday to help with the emergency and expressed in a tweet: “The tragedy of Mocoa is painful to me as President and as a human being. My condolences to each family member of the victims.”