An avalanche of mud and debris roared through an alpine town in western Colombia before dawn Monday, killing at least 62 people in a flash flood and mudslide triggered by heavy rains.
Residents were stirred from bed in the dead of the night by a loud rumble and neighbors’ shouts of “The river! The river!” as modestly built homes and bridges plunged into the Libordiana ravine. Survivors barely had enough time to gather their loved ones.
The disaster hit around 3 a.m. local time in the town of Salgar, about 100 kilometers southwest of Medellín.
Dozens of rescuers supported by Black Hawk helicopters evacuated residents near the ravine for fear of another mudslide.
President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to the town to oversee relief efforts, said several children lost their parents and the bodies of those killed needed to be transported to Medellín to be identified. As giant diggers were removing debris he vowed to rebuild the lost homes and provide shelter and assistance for the estimated 500 people affected by the calamity.
Carlos Ivan Márquez, head of the National Disasters Unit, said that more than 31 homes had been destroyed and an undetermined number of people were missing.