Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos appeared in a live broadcast on national television on Monday to talk about the rains that have devastated the country and his government’s efforts to provide aid and rebuild.
According to Santos, the two rainy seasons that have caused destruction since the middle of 2010 and are continuing to wreak havoc following a brief period of drought in January is “the worst natural tragedy we remember.”
“It is like a hurricane that came in the middle of the year hit all our territory and has refused to go away,” Santos said.
The President said that since the beginning of the torrential rains, the Colombian state has spent approximately $250 million in humanitarian aid to victims of floods and landslides, “which is the most urgent: guarantee food and a place to sleep for the affected families.”
“For the overall attention to emergencies, through [government aid organization] ‘Colombia Humanitaria’ almost $2.52 billion of the national budget for 2010 – 2011 has been destined — excluding what is invested through the ministries and local entities — of which 95% has been confirmed,” said Santos.
The President announced serious reorganizations in regional committees in charge of water and infrastructure management that have come under fire for allegedly mismanaging their budgets and causing the tragedy to be even bigger.
Santos also warned that climate phenomenons like La Niña, blamed for the extreme rainfall of the past year, are more likely to be the rule than an exception in the future.
“We will have to … prepare the country for phenomena like the one we have today … Climate change is here to stay,” warned Santos.
The two rainy seasons of 2010 and 2011 have left more than 3 million victims. Meteorologists have warned that the worst of the current rainy season — expected to last until June — is yet to come.