Colombia – 130,000 Threatened by Dam Collapse in Antioquia

The government in Antioquia department, Colombia, has declared Public Calamity as the Hidroituango Dam threatens to collapse.

The dam is situated on the Cauca river and is in the final stages of construction. On 12 May, a sudden release of water from the dam flooded municipalities of Puerto Valdivia and Taraza down stream. Around 600 people were forced to evacuated their homes.

The situation was caused by diversion tunnels of the dam becoming blocked. The reason for the blockage is unclear, although some local media report that it was caused by landslides in the area. Water is now building up in the dam and there is a fear that the situation could worsen and the dam collapse, threatening more than 130,000 people along the Cauca river.

Ituango (Hidroituango) Dam Flooding, Colombia, 17 May 2018. Image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2018], processed by Pierre Markuse, published under CC BY 2.0
Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) the public utilities company responsible for the construction, say it is working to increase the height of the dam to provide greater protection.

The Red Cross says there is a current state of maximum alert at locations downstream of the project on the Cauca riverbanks: Ituango, Briceño, Valdivia (Corregimiento Puerto Valdivia), Cáceres, Tarazá, Caucasia and Nechí. A preventive evacuation order was issued to the departments of Sucre (Majagual, Guaranda, San Marcos, Sucre, Caimito y San Benito de Abad), Córdoba (Ayapel) and Bolívar (Achí, Magangué y San Jacinto del Cauca).

As of 20 May, 2018, around 8,000 people had evacuated their homes in areas between Tarazá, Cáceres and Caucasia, according to Colombia’s disaster management agency, UNGRD.

Evacuation alert. Image: UNGRD

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