BOGOTA – The death toll from the mudslides and flooding from the three rivers that overflowed and destroyed part of the southern Colombian city of Mocoa rose on Tuesday to 286, the National Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences Institute reported.
According to Legal Medicine Institute Director Carlos Eduardo Valdes, at present, 117 adult bodies have been identified and the bodies of 46 children have been handed over to their families.
“Today’s goal is, as Mr. President (Juan Manuel Santos) has told us, to try to identify every one of the bodies in order to hand them over to their families and alleviate much of the suffering of those who survived,” the official said.
Valdes said he and his 92-man team are dealing with the tragedy and that they will install a group of specialists at the Mocoa branch office to help look after “families that are still searching for their dear ones who have disappeared.”
The natural catastrophe in southern Colombia was caused by the flooding of the Mocoa, Sangoyaco and Mulatos Rivers, which flow through the city and, because of Friday night’s heavy downpours, overflowed to the extent that they wiped out several neighborhoods.
Valdes said on Monday that his unit “has to do a complete job of identifying the bodies,” and so asked the citizens of Mocoa who survived this disaster “to understand that we can’t give over the bodies for family members to identify, because they are battered” beyond recognition.
In a catastrophe like this, those able to bury their loved ones are feeling almost fortunate, though because of the hurry, many graves lack any identification of who has been laid to rest there, just flowers that have already begun to wither.