Homes buried in landslide tragedy

Homes buried in landslide tragedy

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Residents search for survivors in Bello, northwestern Colombia, after the landslide

More than 100 people were feared dead following a landslide that buried a poor area during Colombia’s heaviest rains in decades.

The rains that triggered Sunday’s landslide in the Bello, a suburb of Medellin in Antioquia state, have also driven thousands from their homes, damaged coffee and flower crops and blocked the two-lane highways that are mountainous Colombia’s commercial backbone.

Rescuers have so far recovered 23 bodies, including 11 children.

Authorities said nine of the children were playing in a park when the landslide struck.

Claudia Patricia Molina, 37, lost her home when the hillside came crashing down with a roar that sounded “as if someone had placed a bomb”. She was about four streets away visiting friends when the slide struck.

Thirty brick homes were buried by at least 1.7 million cubic feet of earth, John Rendon, disaster co-ordinator for Antioquia, said.

Interior minister German Vargas said more than 100 people were missing. That brought the death toll from floods and mudslides generated by this year’s rainfall to 199, said the director of Colombia’s national disaster management office, Luz Amanda Pulido.

Last year, 110 people died in rainfall-related calamities, while 48 were killed in 2008, Colombian Red Cross director of national relief operations Carlos Ivan Marquez said.

This year’s rains – exacerbated by the La Nina weather phenomenon – are the heaviest in the 42 years since the country’s weather service was created and started keeping records, agency director Ricardo Lozano said.

They prompted President Juan Manuel Santos to announce he was cancelling a planned trip to Cancun, Mexico, to take part in global climate talks.

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