At least 12 people are dead and about 20 missing in the aftermath of landslides caused by heavy rain in central Colombia, authorities say.
The landslides struck late on Monday in the rural municipality of Quetame, southeast of the capital Bogotá in the province of Cundinamarca.
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Nicolás García Bustos, the governor of the province, posted a Twitter video on Tuesday saying that the death toll had risen to 14, with six more people transferred to healthcare centres for injuries.
Civil defence operational director Ricardo Coronado, meanwhile, offered the Reuters news agency a slightly lower estimate: “So far we have recovered 12 bodies, with two children among the fatalities.”
The governor added that he had declared a public emergency with the province’s special administrative unit for disaster management “to dispose of resources in an immediate manner” to address the devastation.
“Relief agencies with drones are resuming the search,” Quetame Mayor Camilo Parrado also said, adding that some households had lost “two, three, even four family members”.
Several homes were destroyed, and a major trade route was clogged with mud. Debris, piled high throughout the area, has complicated search efforts: Videos have shown the mud and wreckage strewn around Quetame. Firefighters have evacuated dozens of people.
La muerte que llega a Quetame, Cundinamarca, demuestra la imperiosa necesidad de ordenar el territorio alrededor del agua y liberar sus espacios.en los Planes POT de los municipios. Alcaldes y alcaldesas deben priorizar este principio.
Mi sentido pésame a las familias víctimas
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) July 18, 2023
Civil defence director Jorge Diaz said the mudslide had covered a section of road that connects Bogota to the southeast of the country, one of the country’s primary transportation routes. The blockage occurred at a toll post about 60km (37 miles) from the capital.
President Gustavo Petro offered his “condolences to the families of the victims” in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
Colombia’s rainy season, which typically stretches from June until November, claims numerous victims each year. During the rainy season in 2022, about 300 people were killed due to flooding.