BOGOTA – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed on Sunday that at least 210 people have died and 203 were injured in the mudslides that buried or wiped away part of the city of Mocoa, promising that the southern jungle city will be rebuilt.
Santos is heading, for the second consecutive day, the rescue efforts and work to attend to the victims of the tragedy in the capital of Colombia’s southern Putumayo province.
The president, who came to the zone accompanied by his wife, Maria Clemencia de Santos, and several Cabinet ministers, said that of the dead, 170 were identified “in record time” and the bodies of 112 “are at the disposal of the (authorities) to be returned to their loved ones.”
Santos said that of the 203 injured, 68 were sent to hospitals in the nearby cities of Neiva and Popayan, adding that nobody had “officially” been declared missing in the wake of the tragedy, although he invited people who do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones to contact authorities to help identify the bodies that have been recovered.
Meanwhile, rescuers stepped up efforts on Sunday to find survivors of the mudslides that killed at least 234 people and injured 202 – figures reported earlier on Sunday – in Mocoa, officials said.
Reports on the number of people killed in the mudslides have varied, with Santos saying on Saturday night that 193 people died, while the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) put the death toll at 200 and the Red Cross pegged it at 234.
Some media outlets reported that 300 people died in the natural disaster, but officials have not confirmed such a high death toll although fears are that the number could climb as the search continues on Sunday.
An unknown number of people disappeared when the Mocoa River and its tributaries, the Sangoyaco and Mulatos rivers, overflowed their banks following torrential rains on Friday night.
The government, meanwhile, is sending food, medicines, drinking water, generators and other supplies to Mocoa, a city of about 45,000, whose electric grid and water system were destroyed by the mudslides.