The Death Toll in Columbia is rising in the wake of mud and debris crashing into homes. Unrelenting torrential rain created a landslide that has brought flooding and a deluge of muddy water. A state of emergency has been declared in and around the small city of Mocoa.

Buried alive

Columbia has experienced other landslides in the past but this is by far more devastating than any in recent years. Heavy rains led to the overflow of several rivers. Sediments and rocks were forced unto roads and buildings, burying people, vehicles, and homes under several feet of mud.

As debris and water crashed into homes early Saturday morning, hundreds were forced to evacuate. While some escaped, over 250 thousand men women and children were not so lucky and perished. Many more are injured and missing.

According to reports from local eyewitnesses, the torrential rain storm reached a peak between 11pm and 1am. Residents were out searching for missing relatives and there is no final count at this time of how many are dead and missing. The Army reports that 400 people were injured, 200 declared missing and 254 are confirmed dead.

State of emergency

The city of Mocao, in the southwestern Putumayo province, is home to a population of 345,000 residents. Over a thousand military and police officers have gone to the area to assist with the search and rescue.

Their main task is to dig people out of the 17 neighborhoods that are affected. The President of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, arrived in Mocao to observe the devastation and rescue efforts. He has declared a state of emergency and heard first hand from the survivors.

A history of landslides

Columbia has had its share of landslides and natural disasters due to it rugged land mass and seismic activity.

The country experienced 150 natural disasters between 1975 and 2015 that claimed the lives of more than 30 thousand people. Flooding leading to landslides in 2010 to 2011 claimed the lives of 1,374 people and destroyed over 100,000 homes. In 2015 a landslide triggered by heavy rains in Northwest Columbia claimed the lives of over 80 people in the town of Salgar.