At least 154 people were killed, 174 injured and 200 are missing after floods hit Mocoa, the capital of Colombia’s southern Putumayo province, the Red Cross reported Saturday.
A large part of the city was hit by a mudslides caused by heavy rains, destroying the local hospital and wiping away entire neighborhoods.
President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday morning he would travel to the disaster area and ordered all aid and military units to deliver immediate support.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) April 1, 2017
The military later responded it had sent five airplanes carrying 150 men to the city to help in rescue efforts.
5 aviones de FFAA han salido para Mocoa desde diferentes partes del país. 150 efectivos adicionales para enfrentar la tragedia natural. pic.twitter.com/fgHjJxRdQA
— Mindefensa (@mindefensa) April 1, 2017
While in the region, Santos declared a state of calamity, allowing the national government to use emergency disaster funds to deal with the country’s deadliest disaster in years.
Meteorologists across Colombia have been on alert for months because this year’s first rainy season is combined with “La Niña,” a weather phenomenon bringing extra rain from the Pacific Ocean.
In Mocoa, the excess in rainfall caused the overnight overflowing of three rivers, the Mocoa, the Mulato and the Sancoyaco.
The floods caused an avalanche of mud and bricks that wiped away “much of the city” little after midnight, Mayor Jose Antonio Castro was quoted as saying by newspaper El Tiempo.
To make matters worse, the local hospital collapsed under the enormous pressure of the water and mud.
It’s quite a large strip [where] a large part of the voluminous population practically was taken by the avalanche.
Mayor Jose Antonio Castro
After dawn, rescue teams entered the affected area, but soon reported to be in urgent need of supplies, overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.
The rescue efforts are complicated further as the main road into the city has been destroyed, isolating the city’s approximately 40,000 inhabitants from the rest of the country.
This article is being expanded