BOGOTA – The death toll from recent heavy rains in Colombia rose to 128 and the number of injured to more than 200 after the recovery of several bodies from the sites of mudslides in Medellin and in a rural area outside Quinchia, a city in Risaralda province, officials said on Sunday.
“There are (128) dead, more than 200 injured, more than 251,000 families are affected and there are more than 20,000 homes damaged and 1,700 completely destroyed,” Red Cross disaster management director Carlos Ivan Marquez said adding that a special alert needed to be maintained in the Magdalena and Cauca river valleys, Colombia’s two largest watercourses.
He also said that the northern province of Bolivar has been the most heavily affected by the rains, along with the provinces of Magdalena, Cordoba, Sucre, Choco, Antioquia and Cesar, all also in the north.
After the mudslide in Quinchia, the bodies of two children, ages 6 and 9, were recovered along with that of their 45-year-old mother and that of a 51-year-old man.
Two other bodies of people who had been trapped when a hillside collapsed in Medellin’s La Sierra neighborhood were also recovered on Sunday by firefighters and members of emergency organizations, Municipal Disaster Prevention and Relief System chief Martin Molina said.
The rainy season, which has intensified in recent weeks, has also damaged dozens of main, secondary and local roads, isolated a number of areas and affected agricultural production and the education and health care sectors, Marquez said.
The rains have affected more than 550 of the 1,120 municipalities in 28 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, and in many cities and towns authorities have had to evacuate residents from at-risk zones on hillsides and along rivers.
On Saturday afternoon, several streams overflowed, forcing authorities to close the Southern Highway in the area south of Bogota, while in the cities of Medellin and Cali, the overflowing rivers and mudslides also forced vehicle traffic to be restricted.
In the face of the current situation, which is being aggravated by the La Niña weather phenomenon, the government announced that it was calling upon international and aid organizations to help the almost 1.2 million people who have been affected by the rains and flooding, Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras said.
The rainy season will continue, the Red Cross and the Ideam weather service warned, approximately until the beginning of next year.