At least 193 dead in Mocoa, Putumayo mudslides

By Phoebe Hopson April 1, 2017
Mocoa, Putumayo, landslide, derrumbe

Aerial view of Mocoa, capital of Putumayo, which in the past hours has been seriously affected by the rivers Mulato, Sanguyaco and Taruca bursting their banks. Photo: César Carrión

The full extent of tragedy from mudslides in Mocoa is still emerging as hundreds are injured after three rivers burst. Phoebe Hopson reports that the death toll is almost two hundred.

UPDATE: 11.30pm, April 1

In the aftermath of the landslides that has left Mocoa devastated, the death toll has risen to 193 and an additional 202 are injured according to President Manuel Santos’s Twitter. However, this figure is likely to rise as the rescue operation continues and an estimated 200 people are still missing.

Despite weather warnings and nightfall, the Colombian Army and international organisations such as the Red Cross will continue rescue operations throughout the night.

Sorrel Aroca Rodriquez, the governor of Putumayo has called for the evacuation of those living on the banks of the Taruca stream and the Sangoyaco river over fears of further mudslides.

Speculation has arisen as to why the mudslides occurred and if the tragedy could have been avoided. However Carolina Gil, director of the Amazon Conservation Team said “we still don’t know the cause of the tragedy and it is still too soon to evaluate the situation.”

Civilian accounts from Mocoa have reported a scene of chaos due to a lack of electricity and lack of food. The Red Cross is helping to put those outside of Mocoa in touch with family members, and President Santos has launched a fundraising campaign via Davivienda.


Mocoa, Putumayo, landslide, derrumbe

The bursting of the rivers Mulato, Sanguyaco and Taruca’s banks has caused the loss of life as well as many homes in the capital of Putumayo, Mocoa. Photo: César Carrión

Catastrophic mudslides devastated the Putumayo capital, Mocoa on Saturday April 1. Heavy rainfall overnight caused three rivers to break their banks, generating an avalanche of mud that destroyed houses and wiped out bridges and infrastructure.

President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed in a televised statement that 112 people have lost their lives. Hundreds of people have serious injuries and thousands more have been wounded and large parts of the town have been buried and left without electricity or water.

Local mayor José Antonio Castro told Caracol radio. “A big portion of the many houses were just taken by the avalanche, but above all the people were warned with enough time and they were able to get out, but houses in 17 neighbourhoods have basically been erased.”

The director general of the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management, Carlos Iván Márquez Pérez, confirmed that air force helicopters had been mobilised to assist in the rescue efforts, and that his team were coordinating the crisis response operations.

“We will be working with the government and the mayor’s office giving all the necessary attention, generating safe conditions for the people affected and carrying out the active search and rescue missions,” he said.

The Red Cross have also offered their services in locating missing family members.

The president travelled to the region upon hearing the news, Luis Carlos Villegas the minister of defense, Alejandro Gaviria the minister of health and Luis Gilberto Murillo, minister for the environment.

Video: Joaquín Uribe / Phoebe Hopson.