Saturday, March 2, 2024

First Mocoa landslide victims buried, Colombia declares emergency

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Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi
Isaac Kaledzi is an experienced and award winning journalist from Ghana. He has worked for several media brands both in Ghana and on the International scene. Isaac Kaledzi is currently serving as an African Correspondent for DW.

Colombia’s president has declared an “economic, social and ecological emergency” as the first victims of the Mocoa landslide were laid to rest.

Juan Manuel Santos said the government was also putting 40,000m pesos ($13.9m; £11.1m) towards “addressing humanitarian priorities”.

At the same time, the first funerals were taking place of the 262 victims killed in Saturday’s landslide.

But the hunt still continues for any survivors.

The Red Cross told news agency AFP they were still within the 72-hour window where they would hope to find people alive.

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However, hopes were fading among residents still desperate to find family members swept away in the torrent of mud, rocks and debris which struck the south-western town of 40,000 early on Saturday.

The flood came after a night of extremely heavy rain, which raised the water levels of the Mocoa River and three tributaries, sweeping away entire neighbourhoods.

Ercy Lopez, 39, who survived by hanging on to a tree, said people were still searching for her daughter Diana Vanesa, 22, but told AFP: “The hopes of finding her alive are slim now.”

Those who remain are now awaiting the arrival of humanitarian assistance.

El Espectador (in Spanish) reported there was at least 40 tons of emergency humanitarian assistance on its way to the town, including 2,000 food kits and 1,000 tents.

Meanwhile, President Santos said 7,000 blankets and 6,000 mats had just been delivered, according to El Pais (in Spanish).

Relatives and friends of Deisy Rosero, 26, pray during her funeral at a cemetery in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia
People are starting to lose hope of finding people alive in Mocoa. Photo Credit: AFP

On Sunday, Colombia’s Farc rebel group offered to help rebuild the town, but their involvement has yet to be approved by the government.

Father Omar Parra told Colombian television that everyone was doing what they could to assist.

“Help is mainly coming from other parishes. We’ve created an emergency committee and we’re doing what we can. Assistance hasn’t yet arrived, it’s just beginning to now. We understand that neither the regional nor the municipal authorities were prepared for this catastrophe so we’re doing what we can.”

President Santos has vowed investment will be made to make Mocoa better than it was before, and put Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas in charge of the rebuilding of the town.

But President Santos’ critics said more should have been done to protect the area from such disasters.


Source: BBC

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