Many killed in Colombia mudslide
Up to 145 people feared dead in a mudslide caused by heavy downpours that has already killed at least 12, officials say.
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2010 15:06 GMT
Houses built on the mountainsides of Medellin are especially vulnerable to heavy rains [EPA}

Fears are growing for up to 145 people missing in a landslide in Colombia, which has already claimed the lives of at least 12 people, officials have said.

Emergency crews worked through Sunday night in a bid to rescue those feared missing, clawing through debris after a wall of mud buried around 50 houses in Bello town, near the northern city of Medellin.

The landslide, which struck on Sunday, followed the worst downpours to hit the country in decades, which have left nearly 200 dead and 1.5 million homeless.

"There are 145 people missing, including the 12 dead who have been recovered up until now," Luis
Alfredo Ramos, Antioquia Governor, told reporters in Bello.

According to the Red Cross some 200 emergency workers had been operating in the area in order to save lives.

Weather phenomenon

So far three people have been rescued alive, Cesar Uruena, Red Cross operations deputy director told the AFP news agency.

John Rendon, the emergency management director of Antioquia state, said trained dogs were attempting to locate people beneath tonnes sodden earth.

Authorities are also trying to get heavy equipment to the scene.

Medellin, about 400km northwest of the capital, Bogota, lies in a valley where many poorer neighbourhoods of precariously-built houses are stacked up the mountainsides making them highly vulnerable to heavy weather.

Landslides are common in Colombia's rugged Andes mountains, and rains have been especially heavy this year.

Colombia is experiencing torrential downpours due to the La Nina weather phenomenon, in which cooler-than-normal water circulates in the Pacific Ocean around the equator.

Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, said on Sunday that the number of homeless from the rains could reach two million.

According to the Red Cross, 1,821 homes have been destroyed and another 256,083 damaged due to heavy rainfall and flooding. It has also attributed at least 176 deaths to the season's rains, which have hindered coffee and coal sectors too.

The bad weather has affected neighbouring Venezuela, where driving rains have triggered flooding and cave-ins that have killed 34 people over the past week and left an estimated 90,000 people homeless nationwide.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.