Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pledged on Wednesday to finance the rebuilding of some 300 homes destroyed by a landslide in the town of Utica, during a visit to the disaster-hit area, Caracol Radio reports.
Utica, situated approximately two hours from Bogota, has been badly affected by the recent heavy rains and mudslides resulting from the nearby Rio Negro bursting its banks.
Santos visited the town in central Colombia on Wednesday morning, where he promised to “bring a voice of solidarity to the region and to coordinate aid efforts.”
The president also promised that the local school would soon be re-opened and that the government will replace 160 school computers that the water has destroyed, as well as providing an additional 20 tons of humanitarian aid supplies for the region.
In addition, the local disaster recovery agency, the Cudinamarca Office for Emergency Prevention and Response, is taking measures to try to prevent any further mudslides or floods. According to the agency’s director, Jaime Matiz, these may include the destruction of a bridge in the town to enable water from Rio Negro to flow more freely and therefore prevent further flooding. As Matiz acknowledges, military engineers are worried that the bridge’s location very near to a number of rocks and a dam, could mean it preventing water from flowing and draining effectively.
A specially formulated committee and the Ministry of Justice and the Interior are also now conducting wider assessments to establish whether it is safe for those who have already been evacuated to return to their homes or whether more people still need to leave the town.
National Relief Director Cesar Ureña summarized the effect on the region by explaining that 120 families had lost their homes, while Cudinamarca’s governor, Andres Gonzalez, said approximately 80% of the region’s urban population had been affected by the terrible weather.
Gonzalez went on to explain that “fortunately there was no further downpour last night which enabled us to set up about 100 tents and mattresses for the local people,” many of whom are temporarily accommodated in large local farms.
The floods in Utica have so far resulted in the deaths of two women and have also left another two people missing. Water and mud have damaged 240 homes, of which at least 120 are completely destroyed. Furthermore Cundinamarca‘s fire department has warned that further flooding is likely.
This year’s floods have already killed over 85 people nationally, prompting President Santos to admit that the state’s resources are stretched at the moment in dealing with the effects of the rain.
Last year’s devastating rainy season claimed the lives of 319 Colombians, led to the disappearance of another 54, injured 447 and affected a total of 2.3 million people.