BOGOTA: Mudslides have killed 92 people, injured 180 and left 200 missing after destroying homes in southern Colombia, the Red Cross and officials said Saturday.
The surge swept away houses, bridges, vehicles and trees, leaving piles of wrecked timber and brown mud, army photographs from the town of Mocoa showed.
The mudslides struck late Friday after days of torrential rain.
“We can report 92 people dead and 180 injured,” the Red Cross aid group´s rescue official Cesar Urena told AFP.
He warned that the death toll may rise because 200 people are still missing.
“The number is rising enormously and at considerable speed,” he said.
The disaster of “large proportions,” he added.
The organization has raised the toll from an initial estimate of 16 dead.
Governor Sorrel Aroca of the Putumayo department called the development “an unprecedented tragedy” for the area.
There are “hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared,” he told W Radio.
Carlos Ivan Marquez, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, told AFP the mudslides were caused by the rise of the Mocoa River and tributaries.
The rivers flooded, causing a “big avalanche,” the army said in a statement.
President Juan Manuel Santos said he would travel to Mocoa, the Putumayo capital, to supervise rescue and assistance efforts in the heavily forested region.
The authorities activated a crisis group including more than 100 local officials, military personnel, police and rescuers to search for missing people and begin removing hundreds of tons of debris, Marquez said.
Mocoa, a town of 40,000 people, was left without power or running water.
Several deadly landslides have struck Colombia in recent months.
A landslide in November killed nine people in the southwestern rural town of El Tambo, officials said at the time.