Colombians resume search for missing after mudslide


A person displays a pair of little girls' shoes on April 22, 2019, in Portachuelo, Colombia, after a landslide buried eight homes the day before, killing at least 17 people. EFE-EPA/ Ernesto Guzman Jr

ROSAS, COLOMBIA.- Colombian authorities on Monday resumed their search for more than a dozen people listed as missing after a mudslide left 17 dead in this southwestern municipality.

The UNGRD national risk and disaster management unit said in a statement that so far 16 of the 17 bodies recovered, four of them children, have been identified.

Some officials at the disaster scene said that the number of missing in the landslide that buried eight homes in Portachuelo, a rural hamlet within the Rosas municipal limits, could be raised to 16.

The UNGRD said it was using specially trained dogs in the search operation.

Scouring over the huge pile of earth that swept over part of Portachuelo were long lines of emergency workers, soldiers – some of them with rifles on their shoulders – and volunteers who were using poles to probe the ground below in the search for the missing.

On the lower part of the landslide, at the edge of the Pan-American Highway, a short stretch of which was covered by the avalanche, survivors who lost everything were trying to pull clothing or any other belongings they could find from the muddy rubble and debris.

A man of around 60 morosely displayed a pair of pants he had managed to extract from what had been his home, while a woman stared sadly at a plush teddy bear partially covered with dirt.

The heavy machinery that was sent to the area has partially reopened the Pan-American Highway and on Monday automobiles and cargo trucks once again began passing through that stretch of roadway.

The UNGRD added that of the people injured in the landslide, two were treated and released, two others remain under medical observation and a fifth was transferred to a hospital in Popayan, the capital of Cauca province, to undergo surgery.

Given the seriousness of the situation, President Ivan Duque traveled on Sunday to Cauca along with Housing Minister Jonathan Malagon and Transportation Minister Angela Maria Orozco.

The rainy season in Colombia has also affected the southern province of Nariño, on the border with Ecuador, where the Telembi River burst its banks and flooded the town of Barbacoas.

Duque went to that town on Monday morning along with Malagon and other officials to, as he said on his Twitter account, «coordinate attention and progress in relocating the families affected by the rise of the Telembi River.»

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