MOCOA, Colombia – The death toll from the landslides that destroyed part of Colombia’s southern city of Mocoa has risen to 273, according to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
“We have counted the number of people who have unfortunately died. The latest figure is 273 people dead and 262 injured,” Santos told reporters at a press briefing in Mocoa, capital of the southern department of Putumayo.
He added that 193 autopsies have been performed and 100 bodies have been delivered to relatives.
Santos also inspected all activities that his government has been carrying out to assist the residents of Mocoa, a city home to more than 45,000 people.
He said the next phase of the government’s efforts will be focusing on “prevention and public health,” with a vaccination campaign against tetanus, hepatitis A, chickenpox, whooping cough and rabies.
Santos said there are five places being prepared as shelters, which will be equipped with water, electricity and food.
“There are 2,700 people in shelters and the idea is to evacuate schools as soon as possible so that children can return to class,” he said.
The mudslides in the southern Colombian city were caused by the overflow of three rivers as a result of a heavy downpour on Friday night, which subsequently swept away several neighborhoods.
Santos also declared on Monday a state of economic, social and ecological emergency to deal with the tragedy, and appointed Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas as manager of the reconstruction work.
“There has been a full process of identifying the victims. There are already 255 people registered and we hope to finalize that number by the end of the week,” Santos added.
The president also noted that thousands of toilet kits, blankets, mats and masks have been distributed so far, as well as 31 tank trucks for water distribution and five drinking-water plants.