Colombia: More than 250 killed in landslide

Dozens of children among the dead after heavy rain floods the south-western city of Mocoa

Mudslides in Mocoa, Colombia
Rescuers search for victims following mudslides in Mocoa, southern Colombia
(Image credit: Luis Robayo /AFP/Getty Images )

At least 254 people, including dozens of children, have died after a severe landslide engulfed a city in south-western Colombia.

Residents in Mocoa woke on Saturday morning to find torrents of water and mud flowing through the streets, burying whole neighbourhoods and downing electricity networks.

"The disaster struck in the early hours of Saturday when the rushing waters of the Mocoa river and its tributaries converged on the capital of Putumayo province, catching many people by surprise as they slept," reports The Guardian.

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The area has been declared a disaster zone and search efforts are continuing for the missing.Firefighters and rescuer parties have so far retrieved 82 bodies, Jhon Ever Calderon, the mayor of nearby Villagarzon, told Reuters.

"We think we'll find more," he added.

"Bodies were still being pulled from the thick mud, tree limbs and debris that covered much of the city" on Sunday, as desperate friends and relatives searched for missing loved ones in the sludge, CBS reports.

According to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, hundreds of people have been forced into emergency shelters and are relying on tankers for drinking water.

The floods "not only took more than 200 lives but plunged this regional capital of around 65,000 people into a great humanitarian crisis".

A candlelit vigil was held in the town on Saturday night, adds the paper, with many of the participants still in the muddy clothes they were wearing when the mudslide struck.

Flooding and mudslides are a fact of life in the rainy, mountainous nation. The deadliest on record occurred in Armero in 1985, when 20,000 people were killed.

However, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he believed climate change contributed to the Mocoa flooding and that the intensity of the avalanche was "without precedent".

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