Almost half of Colombia’s departments have issued red alerts due to heavy rains in this year’s prolonged rainy season, Caracol Radio reports.
The government of Antioquia has extended the red alert for the entire department, as the situation remains critical. Constant rain, landslides and overflowing rivers affected more than 30,000 people last weekend.
The dam on the Cauca River broke causing major emergencies in 30 out of 42 municipalities. Most agricultural areas have been devastated and the majority of rural areas are currently not accessible.
Official from the municipality of Atlantic indicate that 5,000 families have been affected by the heavy rains. Within the last few hours, 16 more families were forced to be immediately evacuated as a mudslide broke through a fence protecting four blocks of apartments. These 16 families were forced to pack their belongings without knowing where their home will be for the next few months.
The Red Cross reports that in the department Guajira 16 people died, 40,000 were injured and more than 700 homes have been destroyed. The Red Cross urged the government to provide more humanitarian aid for the people affected.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos asked the international community for assistance. Local aid agencies are not able to deal with the more than 1.2 million victims of floods and landslides. Colombia has spent COP250 billion ($137.5 million) on aid so far.
Heavy rains have caused damage to 28 out of 32 of Colombia’s departments. This year’s prolonged rainy season has been caused by the “La Niña” weather phenomenon. Rains are expected to last until the beginning of 2011.
“La Niña,” which is caused by strengthened trade winds and a decrease in water temperature on the South American coast, typically brings more rain to the region.
Thousands of people so far have been forced to flee because of landslides, mudslides, flooding, the Colombian Red Cross reports.