LA PAZ – At least three people are missing following a landslide that destroyed dozens of dwellings in Bolivia’s capital city of La Paz, officials said on Wednesday.
Emergency services personnel are trying to determine whether two other people may also have gone missing in Tuesday’s landslide, Bolivian National Police commander Gen. Yuri Calderon told reporters.
The area where the landslide occurred is unstable, making it hard for rescue teams to operate, Calderon said, adding that no one was officially listed as dead yet.
The most stable part of the disaster area is on higher ground, Calderon said.
Police have cordoned off the area affected by the landslide and are limiting access to residents seeking to gather their belongings, the police chief said.
There is a danger that the ground could give way, making it unsafe for rescue teams to work, Calderon said, adding that two dwellings collapsed after the initial landslide.
“The ground is completely unstable,” the police chief said, adding that no one would be allowed to work until experts deemed it safe.
About 1,000 police officers are working in various capacities at the disaster scene, Calderon said.
Defense Minister Javier Zavaleta visited the area and told reporters that the government’s priority was to search for the missing and provide “food, shelter and security” to those affected by the natural disaster.
The landslide moved “a large quantity of soil,” Zavaleta said. “The search is not going to be easy.”
Civil Defense, a Defense Ministry agency, provided tarps to families affected by the landslide and is working with the La Paz city government to collect food, mattresses, blankets and personal hygiene products for victims.
Some 380 people were affected by the landslide, which destroyed more than 60 dwellings, the La Paz city government said.
The landslide occurred in an area in central La Paz that was previously home to a landfill.
Officials said the dwellings were constructed without permits in the San Jorge Kantutani area.
The landslide was caused by heavy rains that had already prompted officials to order evacuations of certain areas last weekend.
La Paz, which is home to nearly 1 million people, sits in the Andes at an elevation of about 3,600 meters (11,803 feet).