AT LEAST eight foreigners, three of them with Spanish citizenship, have been reported missing after an overflowing river caused an avalanche of water – killing at least 154 people and injuring 400 more in the city of Mocoa, Colombia last Friday.
The incident, which was triggered by intense rainfall, has caused devastation in Mocoa, leaving over 300 dead so far with a significant number of people recorded as missing.
President Juan Manuel Santos said in a statement in Bogota on Wednesday: ‘This morning 467 people have reported relatives as missing, of the 467 we have located 153, 119 alive and 34 unfortunately dead.’
The avalanche also wiped out Mocoa’s fresh water network, for which 20 water tankers are on their way from other cities.
President Santos blamed climate change for triggering the avalanche, saying that the previous night’s rain was almost half the amount Mocoa normally receives in the entire month of March.
With the rainy season in much of Colombia just beginning, he said local and national authorities need to redouble their efforts to prevent a similar tragedy.
He said: ‘These rains are increasingly more intense, so we have to be ready.’ Adding that instead of sending supplies, Colombians should send donations so that families displaced by the tragedy can rebuild.
The incident happened at around midnight, as many residents were in their homes sleeping.
Witnesses felt buildings vibrate before an avalanche of water carrying mud and debris swept through, toppling homes and lifting trucks downstream.
‘We have about eight foreigners we are looking for, among them there is an Ecuadorian, a German and three Spaniards.’ said the coordinator for restoring family contacts of the Colombian Red Cross, John Freddy Castro.
According to Castro, the ‘direct link to work with the embassies is the Chancellery and through them we can receive information about the addresses, probable locations where they would be… and on the ground, we started searching for these people.’
He added that the most important thing is to ‘re-establish the bond, find the person and tell them that their family is looking for them.’
‘We are aware of three Spaniards who are wanted,’ said a consular spokesman, who declined to give more information on the case that, he explained, is being handled directly with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid.