Unusually heavy rains continue to drench the Colombian town of Soacha, on the outskirts of Bogota, leading authorities to declare a state of emergency, Radio Santa Fe reported Thursday.
According to reports, the regional governor, city mayor, and even President Alvaro Uribe have taken several measures to prevent further damage and to care for the victims of the rains, floods, overflowing rivers, and landslides, which have so far affected nearly 1,500 people.
Authorities established a command center in the Soacha’s mayor’s office, enabling officials from the local, regional, and national governments to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.
Officials have delivered 300 food kits, 1,415 mattresses, 283 hygiene kits, and 35 advanced tool kits to help with rescue and repair operations.
Meanwhile, the Cundinamarca Water Company sent two tankers to supply safe drinking water to the people, while the police sent one to supply rescue and clean-up workers.
For those that have lost their homes or had to be evacuated, the Eduardo Santos school has been turned into temporary housing.
Projects for more permanent housing are already underway, according to Soacha mayor Jose Ernesto Martinez Tarquino. “Since a few months ago, we have been working on two social housing projects [in Soacha] with financing from the national government … which will be able to substantially change the quality of life for a number of families who have for years been the victims of these types of incidents.”
Local health officials have begun distributing tetanus vaccinations.
Two humanitarian centers have also been established, one at the Coliseo General Santander in the city itself, and another in Bogota at Carrera 58 No. 12-83 in order to distribute clothing, food, water, blankets, mattresses and other essential goods.
For his part, President Uribe ordered the National Emergency System to mobilize and help Soacha deal with the emergency.
Nationwide, heavy rains have soaked Colombia since January, costing 48 people their lives, and affecting more than 47,000 more across 27 of the country’s 32 departments.
The rainy season normally lasts until mid-June, but is currently continuing into July. Following an exceptionally dry year in 2009 because of climate phenomenon El Niño, meteorologists expect 2010 to be unusually wet because of La Niña.