Colombia – Over 200 Dead After Massive Landslide and Floods in Mocoa

Disaster management authorities in Colombia said that over 200 people have died and a further 200 are still missing after a major landslide and flooding in Mocoa, Putumayo Department.

Torrential rain during the early hours of 01 April, 2017, rapidly increased levels of the Mocoa, Mulato, and Sancoyaco rivers as well as several local ravines, triggering a massive landslide that buried communities in rocks and mud.

According to a statement from the Colombian army, 254 people have been confirmed dead, 400 wounded, around 200 are still missing. Overall 300 families have been affected across 17 districts of Mocoa.

Rainfall

Reports from Colombia say that 130 mm of rain fell during a short period, with the heaviest of the rain falling between 23:00 Friday, 31 March and 01:00 Saturday, 01 April, 2017. The area would normally see 400 mm in a month during this time of year.

Response

President Juan Manuel Santos visited the affected areas soon after the event. He said “Our hearts and those of all Colombians are with the victims.” He added that a state of calamity will be declared in Mocoa in order to better respond to the situation.

“We are going to make a plan of action with Dr. Carlos Iván Márquez (Director General of UNGRD), with the Governorate and all the institutions that are present here. We will start the whole process of humanitarian aid, we will take care of the wounded, we will start the whole funeral process to care for all the deceased and we will also begin to re-establish the services that were suspended, “said the President.

Around 1,100 personnel from UNGRD, police, military, fire service and civil protection are working at the scene of the disaster. Aircraft and helicopters are in operation to bring in supplies and carry out rescues.

Vulnerability

The municipality of Mocoa is located in the northwest of the Putumayo department, bordering the departments of Nariño to the west and Cauca to the north.

The city is situated in a valley surrounded by steeps slopes, close to the Mocoa, Mulato, and Sancoyaco rivers.

It is an area known to be vulnerable to landslides. Back in 2014 local media reported that the La Taruca quebrada (ravine) posed a serious threat to communities living downstream.

A recent statement on the current disaster by the Colombia Army says the landslide in Mocoa yesterday was caused by the overflowing Taruca which runs to the Sangoyaco river.

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Photos of the Mocoa Landslide and Flood Area

Photos below are courtesy of Colombia’s Ministry of Defence and Colombia’s armed forces.

Heavy Rainfall, Floods and Landslides in Region

Since January, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have all been severely affected by heavy rain, which has triggered floods and landslides across the region leaving almost 400 people dead.

Colombia

The President of Colombia said during his visit to the affected area that Mocoa recorded 130 mm of rain – around 30% of its average monthly total – in just a few hours. Intense, heavy rainfall on this scale has been the norm in the region over the last few weeks.

Last week, Colombia’s National Risk Management Unit (UNGRD) said that 11 departments had been affected by severe weather events since 17 March to 27 March 2017 in what it described as the “first ten days of the rainy season”. Floods, landslides and storms had affected 1,396 families and left 12 people dead.

Heavy rain has also been reported over central areas of the country recently and Villavicencio in Meta Department recorded 83 mm of rain in 24 hours to 31 March.

Peru

Major flooding has affected Peru since January, 2017, where 97 people have died, 348 injured and 20 more still missing. Over 813 000 people are severely affected by the floods and more than 124 000 people are in need of assistance.

Peru’s disaster management agency reports that over 182 000 houses have been affected, more than 27, 500 km of roads damaged or destroyed, and over 35,000 hectares of crops affected and 13,000 hectares destroyed.

Local observers in Peru say that the high levels of rain are a result of higher sea temperatures in the Eastern Pacific, and have dubbed the climate conditions “El Nino Costero” – a coastal El Nino whereby the affects appear to be on a regional scale.

Ecuador

Neighbouring Ecuador has also experienced severe rainfall causing floods and landslides that have left 18 dead and 27 injured since January 2017, according to the country’s Risk Management Secretariat (SGR).

During that time 1,268 people have been severely affected, with 8,000 homes damaged, 144 destroyed and 900 km of road damaged.

The Coastal and Sierra regions are worst hit areas. SGR says that, as of 29 March, over 1,000 people were displaced.

Heavy rain has affected some areas over the last 2 days, with 91 mm of rain falling in Milagro and 56 mm in Santo Domingo de los Colorados during 24 hours to 01 April, 2017.

Flood summary

Last updated: April 4, 2017
Event
Mocoa, Putumayo, Colombia, April 2017
Date
April 1 to April 3, 2017
Type
Landslide, River flood
Cause
Extreme rainfall

Locations

Mocoa

Magnitude

Rainfall level
130 mm in 24 hours
Mocoa - March 31 to April 1, 2017
River level
Overflowing
Sancoyaco - April 1 to April 2, 2017
Mocoa, Mulato, and Sancoyaco
River level
Overflowing
Mocoa - April 1 to April 2, 2017
River level
Overflowing
Mulato - April 1 to April 2, 2017
River level
Overflowing
La Taruca quebrada - April 1 to April 2, 2017

Damages

Fatalities
273 people
April 1 to April 4, 2017
Injured
400 people
April 1 to April 2, 2017
Missing people
200 people
April 1 to April 2, 2017
Affected
1200 people
April 1 to April 2, 2017
estimated figure from 300 families