Disasters & Accidents

Death toll rises to 14 in Colombia landslide

Bogota, Feb 8 (EFE).- The death toll in a landslide caused by heavy rains in the Colombian city of Pereira rose to 14 on Tuesday, Colombian authorities said.

The Ombudsman’s Office said that its regional office in Risaralda province reported that “there are 14 dead in this landslide” and that “three of them are children.”

“We deeply regret what happened between Dosquebradas and Pereira … where a massive (landslide) has left 11 dead, 35 injured, along with material losses,” the President Ivan Duque wrote on Twitter, although authorities later updated the death toll to 14.

The tragedy occurred early Tuesday morning as a result of a torrential rain that saturated the hillside, which collapsed onto a number of homes in the La Esneda neighborhood in Pereira, which is the capital of central Risaralda province.

Duque, who expressed his condolences to the families of the dead, asked the National Risk Management and Disaster Unit (UNGRD) “to be prepared to intervene when required” in the matter.

Meanwhile, Pereira Mayor Carlos Maya said that among the dead are two minors and that given that danger that the hillside could continue to collapse the residents of 15 homes were evacuated and people who remain in other homes in the sector are being asked to leave because “it’s still a risk zone.”

Local media, meanwhile, are reporting 14 deaths and the authorities say that the number of people missing is still not known for certain.

Local residents told media outlets that several homes were buried in the landslide and some structures were swept down to the Otun River, which passes through Pereira and is currently overflowing due to the heavy rain.

The mayor noted that about 25 years ago a similar tragedy occurred in the zone, which experiences rising river waters every winter.

“The banks of the Otun River have overflowed many times and although we’ve cleared (the area) so that families are not living amid that risk, many people return. Now, we’re focused on recovering the bodies and finding more survivors, and later we’ll think about relocation,” he said in remarks reported by the daily El Tiempo.

The emergency was initially dealt with by firefighters from Dosquebradas, a town near Pereira, but later the Red Cross was called in along with the Risaralda Risk Management Directorate, among other agencies.

Risaralda Gov. Victor Manuel Tamayo went to the scene of the disaster to speak with the people affected, who say they are afraid to return to their homes because the rains are continuing and are asking the government to help them with food, toiletries, sleeping mats and clothing because they have lost everything.

EFE ocm/ime/eat/bp

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