Death toll hits 290 as Colombia probes cause of mudslides

Rescue members bury a compatriot who died after flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rains lead several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Mocoa, Colombia April 4, 2017 Picture: REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga
Rescue members bury a compatriot who died after flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rains lead several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Mocoa, Colombia April 4, 2017
Picture: REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga

The number of people killed in southern Colombia’s massive mudslides climbed to 290 on Wednesday, as officials investigated how the horrific disaster might have been prevented.

In addition to the dead, 332 people were injured in landslides that buried the Colombian town of Mocoa after flooding caused by days of torrential rains.

The mudslides occurred Friday after heavy rains caused three rivers to overflow, strewing earth, rocks and tree debris over the area.

Mocoa was home to 70,000 people, about 45,000 of whom were affected by the disaster, according to the Red Cross.

Hardest-hit by the tragedy are impoverished neighborhoods populated with residents uprooted during Colombia’s five-decade-long civil war.

Authorities have opened an investigation to determine what sort of “preventive and corrective action” ought to have been taken to prevent the disaster, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, looting has become a problem in some areas.

Local officials urged the government to dispatch more police and troops to secure the region and prevent the looting of abandoned homes.

“What the mudslides didn’t carry away, the thieves did,” one survivor of the disaster, Juan Luis Hernandez, 33, told AFP in the devastated San Miguel neighborhood of Mocoa.

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