At least 52 people were killed and several injured when a flurry of mud and debris, caused by heavy rains, swept through the town of Salgar in Colombia at 3 a.m. on Monday.
The mudslide caused several homes, bridges and structures to be flowed away into the Libordiana ravine. The town, which lies 60 miles southwest of Medellin, was destroyed by water, rocks and other debris.
According to The Independent, Diego Agudelo, one of the survivors, said, “It was rocks and tree trunks everywhere. The river took out everything in its path.”
Fearing the possibility of another mudslide, residents living near the ravine were evacuated by rescuers supported by Black Hawk helicopters. Bodies were carried away by a red fire truck.
President Juan Manuel Santos visited the town to oversee rescue operations and relief efforts. He said that several children had lost their parents and that the dead needed to be taken to Medellin for identification.
500 People Affected
The catastrophe impacted 500 people. The president promised that he would offer shelter and assistance to those affected.
According to Daily News, Santos said, “Nobody can bring back the dead … but we have to handle this disaster as best we can to move forward.
Colombia is one of the most disaster prone Latin American nations. Its rugged topography, poor quality construction practices, and location in a seismically active area on the northern edge of the Andes are principal reasons why the country has been struck with more than 150 catastrophes in the last 40 years.
The Inter-American Development Bank reports that these calamities have amounted to over 32,000 deaths and affected in excess of 12 million people.
In 1999, a massive earthquake in the city of Armenia left hundreds dead. Floods in 2011 during the rainy season claimed the lives of more than 100 people.
Locals Recounted Their Experience
Luz Maria Urrego, 74, said her brother along with his children and grandchildren were killed in the calamity. She had been traveling to Medllin for a long weekend, and escaped the disaster.
Jorge Quintero, a local resident, told RCN TV that he was being taken away by two currents that were carrying two homes on either side of his own.
“I said to my wife ‘let’s hold each and hope that God saves us,’” he said. “I know God gave us his hand because here we are, alive, still frightened, but alive.”
Former president Alvaro Uribe also traveled to the town to oversee relief efforts.
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