Death toll from mudslide in Colombia climbs to 35 people

Nov 07, 2011 12:00 AM

The death toll from a massive mudslide has risen to 35, officials said, as rescuers struggled to find more survivors in this mountainous, coffee-growing region beset by days of heavy rain.
The mudslide in Manizales, a city of 350,000 some 287 km (178 miles) west of Bogota, swept through the Cervantes neighbourhood, demolishing as many as 14 houses.

The Red Cross director in Manizales, Juan Manuel Osorio, said the death toll had risen from 29 to 35, and could climb even higher.
"We don't dare venture a figure on the number of missing, but I would think that because of when the event occurred, 6:00 am (1100 GMT) Saturday, that there were a good number of residents," he said. "Some people have come forward -- relatives of those who may be there -- and we are working on that information," he said.

Scores of Colombians waited for news of loved ones buried since the disaster. So far 16 people have been rescued but the likelihood of finding more survivors appeared to diminish by the hour.
And some of the survivors, many of whom suffered physical injuries, now also were confronting the mental and emotional anguish of learning that their loved ones had perished.

Jose Fernando Orozco spent more than an hour buried in rubble that buries his home as he slept alongside his wife and their three-year-old daughter.
"I began to pray to God, asking that he get us out of there," said Orozco who is wheelchair-bound as a result of injuries sustained in the accident, and who also hurt his hands in the process of trying to dig himself free.

Rescuers were able to save Jose, his wife, his mother and sister-in-law but not his young daughter. A friend of his sister-in-law, who was also in the house at the time, also died.
"The mud slid downhill and killed my daughter," a visibly pained Orozco told.

Another survivor, Sandra Henao, was stunned and shaken two days after the tragedy.
"All of my neighbours are dead," she said. "Entire families of 11, 12 people -- people I've known since they were little kids -- they're all still" entombed in the mud, Henao said.

Meanwhile, 7 people, mostly children, were killed in the city of Cali when a rain-swollen river burst its banks.
A spokeswoman for Colombia's Risk Management Office, Sandra Calvo, said 35 families numbering some 159 people were believed to be living in the houses that were destroyed or damaged by the mudslide. About 150 rescuers in addition to 450 police worked into the night looking for survivors.

Colombia has been battered by one of its worst rainy seasons in memory this year, with dozens killed and some 250,000 people having to be evacuated from their homes.
Between April 2010 and April 2011, particularly heavy rains triggered by the La Nina phenomenon -- associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures -- left over 400 people dead and 3.6 mm affected by the disaster.

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