Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the “unprecedented” rainy season has surpassed the state’s response capacity, as the Colombian Red Cross announced that the 2011 death toll has reached 85 people.
As the rainy season causes widespread devastation across the country, Santos has admitted to the incapability of the nation’s response infrastructure to sufficiently deal with all the problems.
“The situation is very dramatic and what is happening is to some extent beyond the capability of the state,” he said, “the mountains of Colombia are liquefying and we are seeing landslides everywhere,” Santos said in Manizales where a landslide dragged a bus off the road, killing 18 people.
According to the Colombian Red Cross director, Cesar Uruela, the discovery of five additional bodies following more landslides to the west and northeast of the country has brought the latest figures to “85 people [who] have died and 16 others [who] are missing because of rains, floods and mudslides,” newspaper El Tiempo reported.
The Magdalena River, which runs from the central department of Huila to the Caribbean coast, has overflown and flooded seven neighbourhoods in the Santander town of Barrancabermeja alone, as well as reaching some of the oil fields in the region, reported newspaper El Espectador.
Fresh leaks in the newly-reconstructed Dique Canal, in the northern department of Bolivar, are also causing significant problems to the surrounding Atlantic coast departments, despite having been recently repaired after being destroyed during the previous rainy season.
Meanwhile, similar flooding problems face inhabitants of the Boyaca department. The imminent overflowing of the Chicamocha River has led to the evacuation of various towns, while near Bogota, the river that bears the capital’s name has flooded several local neighborhoods.
Several additional landslides have been reported around the capital, contributing to the some 238 sites of restricted passage on the national road network, with some 16 national highways closed completely, according to the Ministry of Transport.
The departments of Tolima, Cauca, Huila and Cucuta have all had to endure flood and landslide-related problems, with the latter department undergoing emergency water rationing. Some 500,000 people are said to be affected by water shortages resulting from the contamination of supplies and the incapacity to sufficiently treat the water.
Antioquia remains among one of the most severely affected departments, with approximately 6,000 of the estimated 66,000 people displaced by the conditions hailing from the traditionally Paisa region.
Although 24 out of the 32 departments have been affected by the ravages of the rainy season, on Monday IDEAM Director Ricardo Lozano warned of 13 departments at particularly high risk and advised any potential Easter travellers to make their trips in the mornings, since the anticipated trend is dry mornings followed by wet afternoons.
Last year’s rainy season left more than 300 Colombians dead and left the State with more than $5 billion in damages.
UPDATE (Tuesday, April 19, 10:00 AM)
Aside from the victims of the landslide, those affected said that the disaster, caused by water overflowing from the Rio Negra, left cars destroyed and the entire town covered in mud. Townspeople have asked for help and machines to remove the debris.
Newspaper El Tiempo reported that the town of 10,000 inhabitants has now been evacuated as a safety measure.