Colombian media and public figures compare the catastrophic floods in northern Colombia with those caused by “Katrina,” the hurricane that hit the U.S. city of New Orleans in 2005.
According to weekly Semana, the breaking of a dam in the south of the Atlantico department did not result in a death toll as high as that of Katrina, but the emergency situation caused by the floods is equally serious and is forcing the locals to permanently change their way of life.
Two American engineers, called in to assist Colombian authorities with the emergency, told newspaper El Heraldo that the situation they saw in the north of Colombia reminded them of New Orleans, where the engineers took part in rebuilding the city after Katrina hit.
According to one of the Americans, Jeffrey A. Bedey, the recovery of land in Atlantico is going to be a long-term process and in some cases locals will have to decide to move away or change how they make a living.
“The long term changes need the help of the government and of the people. It is important to work together. They will have to change their way of life and maybe abandon these lands,” Bedey told the newspaper.
A Salvadorian engineer backed his American colleague and told Caracol Radio that the area will not be habitable in “the near future.”
Transport Minister German Cardona Gutierrez also compared the floods resulting from this year’s extended rainy season with the New Orleans disaster. “You can compare the devastating effects of hurricane Katrina” with those of this year’s rainy season, he told newspaper El Mundo.
Some 90,000 people in the south of the Atlantico department are directly affected by the floods and the government announced the immediate evacuation of 20,000 in the region, causing a massive exodus of displaced. Nationwide, nearly 2 million Colombians are affected by the rains and the floods and landslides they have caused.
The Colombian government has called on the international community for money for victim relief.