A flood from three overflowing rivers swept through a small city in Colombia while people slept in their bed, destroying homes and killing at least 127 unsuspecting residents, authorities said Saturday. Overnight rains caused several rivers to overflow, sending mud and debris onto houses and roads in the provincial capital of Mocoa, which has around 100,000 inhabitants.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement: “It has just been reported to me that we have 112 people dead.” After arriving in Mocoa, Santos declared a state of emergency. “We will keep looking,” he added. Local police said earlier on Saturday that 93 bodies had been recovered. The disaster response unit said 120 people were injured.
According to a Reuters report, “A witness told the radio station he fled his house in the middle of the night because of the rising river. Cellphone videos showed residents searching for survivors in the debris of destroyed buildings.”
A local police commander Colonel Omar Bonilla told Caracol Radio, “At this time we have removed 93 bodies; we have adults, women and infants.” Reuters quoted Carlos Ivan Marquez, the head of the country’s disaster response team telling the radio station that “It is a very critical situation.”
The head of the disaster unit Carlos Ivan Marquez said in a statement: “We have sent a team of 150 people to make our response effective and machinery began work immediately.” He further added: “We will be with the governor and the mayor giving all necessary attention.”
Mocoa Mayor Jose Antonio Castro also told Caracol, “It’s a big area. 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 neighborhoods have basically been erased.”
According to reports, Castro also added that two bridges were destroyed, and there was an indeterminate number of people missing.