Floodwaters from three swollen rivers surged through a Colombian city this weekend, burying homes under an avalanche of mud and rocks.
Aerial survey footage by the Colombian Air Force shows the scale of devastation in Mocoa, the capital of the southwestern Putamayo province.
Nearly 200 people were killed and another 220 people are feared missing, President Juan Manuel Santos said on early Sunday.
Unusually warm waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean have caused heavy, devastating rains from Colombia down to Peru this spring.
In Mocoa, not far from the Ecuador border, the accumulated rainfall on Saturday was almost half the amount the city normally receives in the entire month of March, Santos said.
Heavy rainfall caused the Mulato, Sanguyaco, and Taruca rivers to overflow, triggering a deluge of water and mud in the city of roughly 36,000 people. As residents slept in their beds, a wall of water ripped up homes and trees and washed away cars.
The president declared Mocoa a disaster zone on Saturday. In a visit to the devastated city, he also blamed climate change for fueling one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s recent history.
The rainy season is just beginning in many parts of Colombia, raising the risk of future catastrophes. Santos urged local and national authorities to redouble their efforts to prepare and respond to such emergencies this spring.
Rescue workers on Sunday continued combing through the muddy aftermath in Mocoa. Authorities said they expect the death toll to rise.
The natural disaster is no doubt one of the worst in the Andean nation’s recent history, though Colombia has experienced even more devastating events in the past. In 1985, nearly 25,000 people were killed in the town of Armero after the Nevado de Ruiz volcano erupted and triggered an onslaught of mud and debris.
Video credit: FuerzaAreaColombian via Storyful
Associated Press contributed reporting.
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