Colombia’s Minister for Justice and the Interior German Vargas Lleras announced that the government is going to declare a national disaster in order to deal with devastation caused by the ongoing rainy season.
“It is a decree that has to go to the cabinet, but it is also a prerequisite for access to international loans and for the channeling of resources to the Calamities Fund,” said Vargas Lleras.
The minister said that the government was currently focusing on humanitarian efforts to help victims, but would later concentrate on reconstruction and prevention.
“At this time all the action from the state is focusing primarily on humanitarian assistance to the 1.2 million Colombians affected, because mitigation and prevention projects can not go ahead in the midst of the floods,” said the minister.
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin on Thursday sent letters to foreign embassies and international organizations in Bogota to solicit support for the emergency.
In the letter Holguin outlines the extent of the disaster, noting that “landslides were affecting 575 municipalities, or 49% of the country.”
Colombia is trying to raise at least $532 million in donations, and President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday began a national campaign to provide basic necessities such as shelter, food and medicine to the victims of floods and landslides.
According to meteorologists, this year’s rainy season, which started in March and is expected to last until next year, is the worst in 60 years. Authorities have declared an emergency situation in almost all the country’s departments and the national government decreed a state of calamity to deal with the increasing volume of flood emergencies.
Bogota last week warned it had run out of funds to help the victims and called on the international community and the country’s private sector to help.