Officials say at least 33 people have died in mudslides brought on by heavy rains in the province of Choco.
At least 33 people have been killed in a landslide brought on by heavy rains in northwestern Colombia, officials have said.
“I deeply regret the death of 33 people in this tragedy, mostly children, according to preliminary reports from the territory,” Vice President Francia Marquez wrote on the social media platform X on Saturday.
“At this time, search and rescue actions continue for the people who remain trapped,” she said.
The mudslide, which happened on Friday afternoon, covered a roadway that connects the cities of Quibdo and Medellin in the Pacific province of Choco, authorities said.
En estos momentos continúan las acciones de búsqueda y rescate de las personas que permanecen atrapadas bajo el deslizamiento de tierra en la vía Quibdó-Medellín, en Carmen del Atrato.
Lamento profundamente el fallecimiento de 33 personas en esta tragedia, en su mayoría niñas y…
— Francia Márquez Mina (@FranciaMarquezM) January 13, 2024
Dozens were also injured on a busy highway, and some people were missing after mud engulfed several cars on the road.
A specialised rescue group from the Colombian police rescued survivors and retrieved bodies on Saturday.
Authorities in Medellin said that, as of early Saturday, 17 bodies had been transported there and that forensic examiners had identified three of them, the AFP news agency reported. No names were released.
With several road closures, rescue crews and firefighters struggled to reach the hardest-hit area.
“Since last night, we have been working hand-in-hand with emergency and relief organisations on the Quibdo-Medellin road,” the police said. “We deployed all our capabilities to rescue and help those affected.”
About 50 soldiers also arrived to assist, and images released by the army showed mud-covered men struggling through swampy terrain.
“All the help available [is being sent] to Choco in this horrible tragedy,” President Gustavo Petro said on social media on Friday.
The landslide in Choco, which lies on the Pacific Ocean and is home to a vast tropical forest, followed more than 24 hours of intense rain.
Images on social media showed the moment a large piece of land dislodged from a mountain and fell on top of several cars that were moving along the flooded road below.
The road has been closed by Colombia’s National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD).
A landslide in the same part of Colombia in December 2022 killed at least 27 people, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles.
While much of Colombia is suffering a period of drought, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies has warned of the risk of heavy rains in the Amazon and in several departments bordering the Pacific.