Massive mudslides hit Colombia's southwestern city of Mocoa after several rivers burst their banks late Friday, March 31, 2017. At least 254 people have been killed, more than 200 are missing and at least 400 are injured, authorities said Sunday. They are describing the event as 'unprecedented tragedy.'
Days of torrential rain in the Amazon basin area have caused a sudden surge of mud and water after three rivers burst their banks late Friday in the city of Mocoa, burying whole neighborhoods and sweeping away vehicles and trees while people were still sleeping.
Mocoa has a population of about 40 000 people. It is he capital of Putumayo, near Colombia's border with Ecuador. Muddy water quickly surged through the city's streets around midnight, toppling homes, ripping trees from their roots and carrying a torrent of rocks and debris downstream. Many residents did not have enough time to flee, the AP reported.
Sorrel Aroca, the governor of Putumayo, called the event "an unprecedented tragedy." There are "hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared," he said.
"We've declared an emergency in the area so we can help people as best we can," Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said. "30 percent of monthly rain fell in just one night," Santos added.
For Al Jazeera, a Mocoa-based filmmaker Simon Uribe said that people were panicking amid rumours of another avalanche coming. "You can see people running down the streets, families and individuals trying to call their friends," he said.
"But there is no energy at this moment, there is no fuel and the roads are also blocked, so it is very difficult to get in or our of the city," Uribe added. "People are panicking, trying to get out of the city," he said. "They are very anxious."
Landslides and heavy rains are common in this area, close to Peru and Ecuador, the state meteorological agency said. However, this March was Colombia's rainiest month in six years, they added.
The rainy season in much of the country is just beginning.
This is one the deadliest disasters in Colombian history with 316 people dead, 332 injured, 103 disappeared and over 17 000 affected people. The reconstruction process is still underway as of August 2018 and many people are still living in temporary shelters.
Featured image: Massive mudslides hit Mocoa, Colombia late March 31, 2017. Credit: AP