BOGOTA – There was nobody who survived the mudslide that buried as many as 30 people on a stretch of mountain road in the northwestern Colombian province of Antioquia, authorities said Wednesday.
“It’s official. There are no survivors,” the head of Antioquia’s emergency management office, John Fredy Rendon, told Efe.
So far, authorities have not managed to recover a single body, said Rendon, noting that it was proving to be “extremely difficult” to remove the huge quantity of mud, rocks and rubble amid the continuing rain in the area.
The mudslide, blamed on recent heavy rains, occurred Monday on the road that links Medellin, the provincial capital and Colombia’s second city, with western Antioquia.
Homes in the area had already been vacated at the time of the mudslide, but dozens of people were on the highway itself transferring between two buses, despite the fact that other landslides had occurred in the vicinity in prior days and the authorities had prohibited road passage through the zone.
Thanks to information provided by relatives, authorities were able to identify 10 people, all of them from the Uraba region, who “with certainty” were buried, although their bodies have not yet been recovered, Rendon said.
Among those 10 people were a child and a policeman who tried to save a woman and her baby as the avalanche swept across the roadway.
Some 100 police, soldiers, firefighters and Red Cross personnel have been participating since Monday in the rescue and recovery efforts supported by 15 sniffer dogs, some of which were used to recover victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
Rendon said it could take a week or more to recover the bodies.
“Difficult times are coming to us. We’re going to do what’s possible to prevent tragedies like this one, but our ability is limited. We don’t have everyone’s cooperation,” President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday during his visit to the site of the tragedy.
The 2010 rainy season, so far this year, has taken the lives of at least 74 people and damaged the property of more than 812,000, according to the most recent government report. EFE