A devastating mudflow struck Quetame, Colombia, late on July 17, 2023, resulting in at least 20 fatalities and leaving 9 individuals missing. The disaster, precipitated by intense rainfall, also led to significant property damage, including the destruction of several homes and a key trade route.
In the late hours of Monday, July 17, 2023, Quetame, a municipality in Colombia’s Cundinamarca department, was hit by a catastrophic mudflow. The incident, caused by torrential rainfall, claimed the lives of at least 20 people, among them five minors, while nine individuals were still unaccounted for.
The disaster also resulted in significant material damage, with several houses destroyed and a major trading route obstructed.
Heavy rains on July 19 posed additional challenges to the ongoing search and rescue operations. Over 400 military troops, firefighters, and other government rescue workers battled the adverse weather conditions in their pursuit of the missing persons. Alvaro Farfan, the fire department chief, noted during a press briefing that the rain posed a safety risk to the personnel involved in the operation.
Additionally, the persistent downpour raised concerns about the possibility of further landslides. Farfan assured that authorities were employing technological equipment to monitor the area for potential risks. The first responders would be evacuated if necessary, he added.
The mudflow significantly disrupted local infrastructure. It swept away a vehicle bridge that linked Bogota to Villavicencio in the east, one of Colombia’s main freight routes. Officials projected that the route would remain closed until at least the end of the following week.
The incident left areas buried under approximately 2 m (6.56 feet) of mud in some places, as stated by Quetame Mayor Camilo Parrado. This further complicated the already challenging search and rescue operation, described as “very complex” by Parrado.
1 Heavy rains hinder rescue effort after Colombian landslide kills 20 – AFP – July 19/20, 2023
2 The devastating 17 July 2023 debris flow at Quetame in Colombia – The Landslide Blog – July 19, 2023
Featured image: La FM (stillshot)
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