Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Mocoa city after what is being described as one of the deadliest disasters in the country in decades. At least 254 people have been killed, 400 injured and hundreds of others have been reported missing in mudslides caused by three nearby rivers overflowing simultaneously, Reuters reported.
Santos said declaring an emergency would allow authorities “to be able to attend to this situation in the best way possible”. “We will provide humanitarian aid and, of course, attend to the injured. We will also hold funeral processes for all those who passed away,” he said, adding that authorities will resume public services when possible, according to Colombia Reports.
At least 2,500 soldiers have been deployed in the southern city for search and rescue work, along with National Disaster Agency personnel and volunteers for the Red Cross. At present, Mocoa is accessible only through air routes as the flooding has blocked the road leading to the city and also destroyed the local hospital. Some 60 forensics investigators are at the spot to identify the victims of the disaster.
The Colombian Health Ministry has already implemented an emergency action plan to prevent the spread of diseases from the decomposing bodies of victims in the humid region. Authorities in Colombia had been bracing for such a calamity as the first monsoon of 2017 in the country came combined with the La Niña weather phenomenon, which brings more rain from the Pacific Ocean.