Rescue workers in Colombia have recovered 20 bodies but said more than 100 people remain missing feared dead after a landslide that buried a poor city suburb in tons of sodden soil.
The landslide in Medellin was triggered by Colombia’s worst rain in at least 40 years, which have driven thousands from their homes and damaged coffee and flower crops.
Thirty brick homes were buried by at least 1.7 million cubic feet of earth, said John Rendon, disaster co-ordinator for Antioquia state where the suburb of Bello is located.
“The weather was good yesterday, and also today, but the soil is saturated and it gave,” he said on Monday.
Interior minister German Vargas said 20 bodies had been recovered and that more than 100 people remain missing.
That brought the death toll from floods and mudslides triggered by this year’s rainfall to 196, 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 recently.
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.
The national government says 1.6 million people have either lost their homes or suffered partial damage. About 70% to 80% live in inundated flood plains and have not abandoned them “because they don’t want to leave their homes and belongings for fear of losing everything”, Ms Pulido said.
In Antioquia, nearly five out of six municipalities have declared emergencies due to the rains.