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Colombia landslide: death toll hits 33



Handout picture released by the Colombian Police press office showing members of the police rescue teams searching for corpses at the area of a landslide in the road between Quibdo and Medellin, Choco Department, Colombia, on January 13, 2024. – At least 23 people were killed and around 20 are injured after a landslide in an indigenous community in northwestern Colombia, an official from the Choco department governor’s office told AFP. (Photo by Handout Colombian police / Colombian Police / AFP)


At least 33 people, mostly children, were killed in a landslide in an indigenous community in northwestern Colombia, the country’s vice president said Saturday.

Rescuers slogging through deep mud were rushing against the clock in hopes of finding survivors in the rubble.

“I deeply regret the death of 33 people in this tragedy, mostly children, according to preliminary reports from the territory,” Vice President Francia Marquez wrote on social media site X, the former Twitter.

Earlier, officials had put the toll in Friday’s landslide, which hit a road linking the cities of Medellin and Quibdo in Choco department, at 23 dead and 20 injured.

“All the help available (is being sent) to Choco in this horrible tragedy,” President Gustavo Petro said on social media Friday.

Authorities in Medellin said that, as of early Saturday, 17 bodies had been transported there and that forensic examiners had identified three of them. No names were released.

With several road closures, rescue crews and firefighters struggled to reach the hardest-hit area, and one official told AFP there had been a request for helicopters to help.

“Since last night, we have been working hand-in-hand with emergency and relief organizations on the Quibdo-Medellin road,” the police said. “We deployed all our capabilities to rescue and help those affected.”

About 50 soldiers also arrived to assist, and images released by the army showed mud-covered men struggling through swampy terrain.

The landslide in Choco, which lies on the Pacific Ocean and is home to a vast tropical forest, was followed by more than 24 hours of intense rain.

A local official told AFP that many travelers, blocked by an earlier landslide Friday, had left their cars to take shelter in a house near the municipality of Carmen de Atrato.

“But unfortunately an avalanche came and buried them,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Images shared on social networks and television channels showed part of a mountain breaking loose and crashing down onto a line of cars, while screams are heard.

A landslide in the same part of Colombia in December 2022 killed at least 27 people, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles.

While much of Colombia is suffering a period of drought, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies has warned of the risk of heavy rains in the Amazon and several departments bordering the Pacific.

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