As the 2011 rainy season takes hold of Colombia, the governor for Antioquia, Luis Alfredo Ramos Botero, said Monday that this year’s disaster is already worse than last year’s in his department.
Governor Luis Alfredo Ramos told newspaper El Colombiano there are currently 45,000 victims in Antioquia, 17 of which are fatalities.
Additionally 453 homes have been destroyed across 37 municipalities within the department, though Ramos affirmed that no municipality has lost communication capabilities to date, despite the severity of the weather. He added that 77 tons of humanitarian aid were delivered successfully in the last week to help those in need.
Antioquia’s plight is indicative of the situation across the country as heavy rains continue to beat down, paralyzing transport networks and infrastructure.
Easter travellers had to contend with over 26 road closures, 300 restricted passages causing heavy delays, airport closures and landslides throughout the country. The past week’s rains alone are estimated to have created 29,100 new victims throughout the country.
The highway between Medellin and Bogota suffered two strong landslides and a bus crash over the weekend that left one dead and eight injured, the only death to have occurred over the Easter weekend. Meanwhile, though Bogota‘s main airport El Dorado remained in full operation, numerous others in Tolima, Caldas, Risaralda, were closed during the Easter weekend.
The most delicate areas of the country remain along the borders of various rivers including the Magdalena and Cauca Rivers which are at record levels, said Cesar Urueña from the Red Cross. “We have had rain for over a year in most of the country” and more than 80% of land has been affected, he added.
Metropolitan areas have also been affected as the Universidad de la Sabana in Bogota was evacuated on Monday morning after 60% of the grounds were flooded by the Bogota River. Classes have been cancelled until Wednesday.
So far in 2011, 93 people have been killed — of which 67 have been in the past month alone — 12 people have disappeared due to the rains, while a further 162,000 have been affected.
The torrential rain has affected 1,018 of the country’s 1,103 municipalities in 28 out of 32 departments. The only four departments that have not suffered any disasters due to the heavy rains are Guainia, Vichada and Vaupes in the east of the country and the Caribbean island of San Andres.
Last week President Santos announced that the rainy season has exceeded the state’s capacities. So far $178 million has been allocated to support victims, though the total damage of the torrential rains is estimated to currently stand at at least $5 billion.
Since the “La Niña” phenomenon hit the country in April last year, 418 Colombians have lost their lives.
Meteorologists have warned that the worst of the rainy season is yet to come. According to the national meteorological institute IDEAM the rains are expected to last until June after which a period of drought is expected to follow.