BOGOTA (AFP) – Flooding and mudslides in central Colombia have killed at least 16 people, government disaster relief authorities said Wednesday, causing alarm in a country still recovering from recent mudslides that killed hundreds.
At least seven people are missing after torrential rains lashed the city of Manizales, government officials said, raising fears the death toll could soar as it did earlier this month in the southern city of Mocoa.
There, at least 323 people including more than 100 children were killed when heavy rain caused three mountain rivers to flood on March 31, hurling a tidal wave of mud and boulders into the city.Manizales “is literally cut off by rock slides, mudslides, floods,” Mayor Jose Octavio Cardona told local radio stations.
He said the city had been on alert after days of heavy rain, which turned to a torrential downpour overnight.
President Juan Manuel Santos suspended his official agenda to travel to the city, the capital of Caldas department — which is, like Mocoa, a remote and difficult region to access.
“This is a product of climate change,” he told reporters, calling to “take care” of the environment to avoid such catastrophes.
He said on Twitter he had ordered officials from the emergency agency and transport ministries to the city to assess the “grave situation.”
Emergency officials said eight neighborhoods had been hit by flooding or mudslides, including one where several homes were buried.
Classes in Manizales — where some 400,000 people live — as well as water, electricity and gas services in affected neighborhoods were suspended as a precaution.