More than 150 people have been killed and hundreds more are missing after torrential rains triggered severe flooding and landslides in the city of Mocoa, in southwest Colombia.
Heavy overnight rainfall caused several rivers to overflow their banks, sending mud and debris crashing onto houses and sweeping away vehicles and trees.
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, who flew to Mocoa on Saturday to oversee rescue efforts, said at least 154 people were confirmed dead.
“We’ve declared an emergency in the area so we can help people as best we can,” Santos told reporters, adding that 30 percent of monthly rain fell in just one night.
“All of our hearts are with the victims of this tragedy.”
An estimated 220 people were still missing, while another 400 were injured, according to the Red Cross.
Mocoa is the capital of Putumayo, near Colombia’s border with Ecuador.
Sorrel Aroca, the governor of Putumayo, called the development “an unprecedented tragedy”.
There are “hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared,” he told a local radio station.
“People do not know what to do … there were no preparations” made for such a disaster, Hernando Rodriguez, a 69-year-old resident told the AFP news agency.
Videos and pictures uploaded to Twitter showed wood planks, mud and piles of rubble from destroyed buildings littering the streets of Mocoa.
Carlos Ivan Marquez, the director of the national disaster agency, said a crisis group, including military units, police and rescue teams, had been activated to search for the missing people, as well as begin removing hundreds of tonnes of debris.
Colombia has been hit by several deadly landslides in recent months.
A landslide in November 2016 killed nine people in the southwestern rural town of El Tambo, officials said at the time.
Another landslide in the north of the country killed 10 people in October last year.
|An aerial view of devastating mudslides caused heavy rains in Mocoa|