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Hundreds still missing in Colombian landslide

07 April 2017


Destroyed: heavy rains caused rivers in Mocoa to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads

Destroyed: heavy rains caused rivers in Mocoa to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads

THE first funerals have been held for the 263 victims found so far after a huge landslide engulfed the city of Mocoa, in Colombia, even as the search continues for hundreds of missing.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Mocoa-Sibundoy, the Rt Revd Luis Albeiro Maldonado Monsalve, de­­scribed a “complex and chaotic situation”, in a statement on the Co­­lombian Bishops’ Conference web­site. He appealed for humanitarian aid for the city’s inhabitants, and said that the Church had set up a group to “attend, listen and ac­­company the victims of this natural tragedy”.

The landslide occured last week­end after a night of exceptionally heavy rain, which raised the water levels of the Mocoa river and three trib­utaries, and swept away entire neigh­bourhoods of Mocoa.

The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has declared a state of emergency. He said that the gov­ernment would allocate £11.1 mil­lion in humanitarian aid for those affected. He has blamed climate change for the tragedy.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Rich countries are the ones that have created climate change more than poor countries. All the world is vulnerable to climate change, but a country like Colombia is especially vulnerable.

”The intensity of the rain — it rained in two hours what would usually rain in one month — that intensity produced the avalanche that is a direct product of climate change.”

More than 1000 emergency per­sonnel have been sent to the city to help in the rescue efforts.

About 300 people are still thought to be missing, and it is feared the number of dead will rise fur­ther, in a town with a population of 40,000. At least 62 of those con­firmed dead are children.

The Pope, offering prayers for victims of the landslide, said that he was “deeply pained” by the tragedy. “I pray for the victims and want to assure those who weep for the miss­ing of my closeness to them,” he said in a statement.

The charity World Vision is al­­ready working in the city, setting up temporary classrooms and child-friend­­ly spaces to provide psycho­logical and educational support for children and families affected by the disaster.

Peru appeal. The Anglican Church of South America has established a “Help Us to Help Others” Com­mission, to mobil­ise financial support for vulnerable commun­ities in Peru, amid the on­­going floods and mudslides. To sup­port this cause, contact the Anglican Alliance Relief Manager, Dr Janice Proud at Janice.Pround@aco.org.

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