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.