World

Colombia: Landslide Kills at Least 17 as Heavy Rains Lash Andes

View of a neighborhood destroyed after mudslides, caused by heavy rains leading several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Manizales, Colombia April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Santiago Osorio

View of a neighbourhood destroyed after mudslides, caused by heavy rains leading several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Manizales, Colombia, April 19, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Santiago Osorio

Bogota: At least 17 people were killed and seven are missing after a landslide sent mud and rocks crashing into several neighbourhoods in Manizales, Colombia, the government said on Wednesday, April 19, the second deadly landslide in the country this month.

Recent heavy rains have endangered residents in dozens of provincial towns, where makeshift construction on the slopes of the Andes mountains makes neighbourhoods particularly susceptible to avalanches and flooding.

The landslide in Manizales, capital of coffee-growing Caldas province west of Bogota, followed a similar disaster in Mocoa, Putumayo earlier this month that killed more than 320 people and displaced thousands from their homes.

“We are helping to find the disappeared … and unfortunately the number will rise,” President Juan Manuel Santos said of the death toll after arriving in Manizales.

At least 57 houses have been affected, the government said. Local media reported that Manizales received a month’s average rainfall just overnight.

Rescuers from the Red Cross, civil defence, firefighters and armed forces are searching for the disappeared in the mud and debris of destroyed buildings.

People and rescue agencies look for bodies in a destroyed area after mudslides, caused by heavy rains leading several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Manizales, Colombia April 19, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Santiago Osorio

People and rescue agencies look for bodies in a destroyed area after mudslides, caused by heavy rains leading several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment and rocks into buildings and roads, in Manizales, Colombia April 19, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Santiago Osorio

Running water, electricity and gas services have been suspended in the areas affected by the landslides.

“The situation in Manizales is very worrying. The toll is saddening,” transport minister Jorge Eduardo Rojas said after meeting with the province’s governor and the mayor of the city.

The forecast is for at least another two days of rain in the area.

Even in a country where rains, a mountainous landscape and informal construction combine to make landslides a common occurrence, the scale of the Mocoa disaster far surpassed recent tragedies, including a 2015 landslide that killed nearly 100 people.

Colombia‘s deadliest landslide, the 1985 Armero disaster, killed more than 20,000.