BOGOTA – The heavy rains that lashed Colombia for more than a year have intensified in recent weeks, leaving 80 people dead and more than 66,000 affected to date in 2011 – but even so, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday that the worst is yet to come.
The latest balance given the press on Saturday by the Red Cross national disaster operations director, Cesar Urueña, says that in 2011 some 80 people have died and another 20 are missing because of the rains, floods and mudslides caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon.
There are also 40 people injured and more than 66,000 affected, according to statistics of the Red Cross, which calls for extreme care to be taken at this time in the provinces of Boyaca, Cundinamarca, Tolima and Huila in the central and southern parts of the country, because of the possible flooding of several rivers.
During this week alone, two serious accidents have occurred as a result of the heavy rains, with the tragic results of 30 victims, between dead and injured.
On Wednesday a bus was swept away by a mudslide and plunged down a ravine as it drove along a highway in the central-western province of Caldas. Of its 20 occupants, 17 died and 3 are still missing.
On Friday, seven people lost their lives and three others went missing in a mudslide that buried several homes in the northeastern province of Santander.
“What’s coming will be worse than anything we’ve seen,” President Santos warned Saturday during an event in the central municipality of Girardot.
The president forecast “incredible mudslides and floods such as we’ve never seen before” in this country, which almost all last year suffered the scourge of La Niña.
The downpours that hit Colombia in 2010, the worst in its history, left 310 fatalities, dozens of missing persons, hundreds of injured and 2.22 million affected, as well as homes, highways, bridges and thousands of hectares (acres) of crops destroyed.
The consequences of La Niña this year will continue to be “devastating,” Santos said, noting that the phenomenon will hit a Colombia “already very much weakened,” with rivers, reservoirs and canals still at “very high” levels from the rains of 2010.
He therefore asked citizens to act in a “responsible” way and follow orders for preventive evacuations, which up to now “have saved many lives.”