Colombia Mudslides Kill 14 Two Weeks After 300 Die in Floods

Associated Press
Published: April 19, 2017

A new round of heavy rainfall triggered additional mudslides Wednesday that killed at least 14 and injured two dozen in a mountain city in Colombia.

Many in the town of Manizales were still asleep when the land gave way in the early-morning hours. The country is still recovering after floods killed at least 300 in the town of Mocoa, located in southern Colombia.

The city of 400,000 received a month's worth of rain in a span of five hours, and dozens of hillsides gave way. In all, 40 to 50 mudslides were reported, destroying homes and leaving several roadways impassable.

(MORE: Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season Forecast)

Rescuers dug in thick layers of mud searching for nine people listed as missing.

Among those believed buried in the debris was a man trying to help several relatives after water began entering their home. A mudslide wrecked the house while he was still inside, though all of his family members managed to escape.

A home is engulfed in mud in Manizales, Colombia, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
(AP Photo/Maria Luisa Garcia)

"Unfortunately, everything indicates he is buried in there," said Juan Carlos Rendon, a transit coordinator aiding operations in Manizales.

The dead included a police officer and at least three children.

President Juan Manuel Santos attempted to reach the region but was forced to land 200 kilometers (124 miles) away in Medellin after encountering bad weather. In remarks in a live broadcast, he said residents in areas still at high risk were being evacuated and national agencies mobilized to assist in the recovery.

"It rained in Manizales like it has never rained before," Santos said.

The landslides occurred as Colombia is still recovering from the March 31 disaster in Mocoa, and the two incidents drew several immediate parallels. Both caught unsuspecting residents off guard in the early morning hours after the cities received unprecedented amounts of rain. Both also struck hardest at poor people living in precarious housing developments.

(MORE: The Most Tornado-Prone Counties in the U.S.)

In one Manizales neighborhood hit Wednesday, several houses had been constructed on a mountain slope despite it being known to be at risk for landslides, Rendon said.

View of a landslide that destroyed several houses in Manizales, Colombia, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
(AP Photo/Maria Luisa Garcia)

One resident, Ana Henao, said she was at home with her 12-year-old daughter Tuesday evening when their roof began to collapse from the intense rains. They stayed awake in fear that worse might still be to come. When a stream of mud began burying the home, she and her daughter got to safety.

"I grabbed my daughter and ran," she said.

Several of her neighbors did not get out.

On one hillside, intact homes stood on either side of a swath torn by a mudflow that swept away other buildings. Dirt and planks of wood spilled out from the entrance of a pastel blue-colored home, a set of bright pink curtains on a nearby window still standing. Entire roadways were left blanketed in debris.

Authorities monitored several hillsides that showed risk of collapse and evacuated residents, said Jorge Eduardo Rojas, Colombia's transportation minister.

"What we need to do now is prevent" more deaths, he said.

MORE: Mudslides Hit Colombia Earlier This Month

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.