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Saturday, April 1

More than 100 killed as mudslides devastate Mocoa

Scores killed and many more missing after torrential rains trigger mudslides in Mocoa, southwest Colombia.
Streets in Mocoa were littered with mud, wood planks and other debris [Colombian Army handout/AFP]

More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds more are missing after torrential rains triggered mudslides in southwest Colombia.

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos said on Saturday that at least 112 people were confirmed dead after a river and its tributaries flooded on midnight Friday in the city of Mocoa, sweeping away buildings, vehicles and trees.

"We don't know how many more there will be, we are still searching," Santos told reporters during a visit to the stricken city, adding that 30 percent of monthly rain fell in just one night.

"We've declared an emergency in the area so we can help people as best we can," he said. "All of our hearts are with the victims of this tragedy."

The Colombian army said in a statement that heavy rains caused the Mocoa River to flood, causing a "big avalanche".

The Red Cross said 180 people were injured and warned the death toll could rise further because at least 200 people were still missing.

Mocoa, home to about 40,000 people, is the capital of Putumayo, near Colombia's border with Ecuador.

Sorrel Aroca, the governor of Putumayo, called the development "an unprecedented tragedy".

There are "hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared," he told a local radio station.

"People do not know what to do ... there were no preparations" made for such a disaster, Hernando Rodriguez, a 69-year-old resident told the AFP news agency.

Videos and pictures uploaded to Twitter showed wood planks, mud and piles of rubble from destroyed buildings littering the streets of Mocoa.

Carlos Ivan Marquez, the director of the national disaster agency, said a crisis group, including military units, police and rescue teams, had been activated to search for the missing people, as well as begin removing hundreds of tonnes of debris.

Colombia has been hit by several deadly landslides in recent months.

A landslide in November 2016 killed nine people in the southwestern rural town of El Tambo, officials said at the time.

Another landslide in the north of the country killed 10 people in October last year.

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