As rescuers raced to save lives after floodwaters and mudslides devastated a Columbian city, the death toll from one of the worst disasters in the country’s history continues to climb.
In a post on Twitter on Sunday, Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos said he had been informed that the number of dead from the flood in the small southern city Mocoa has increased to 254.
“Our prayers are with them and their families,” Santos tweeted in Spanish.
The death toll was expected to rise further as many people were injured or remained unaccounted for. Search-and-rescue teams are still combing through the thick mud, debris and tree limbs for bodies and survivors.
Me informan que desgraciadamente la cifra de muertos subió a 254. Nuestras oraciones están con ellos y sus familias #MocoaSomosTodos
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) April 3, 2017
Heavy rainfall caused the three rivers that surround Mocoa to overflow and send a wall of water through the city of 40,000 late Friday and early Saturday. The deluge swept away homes, cars and trees while most residents were asleep in their beds. The president, who visited Mocoa for a second straight day Sunday, declared the area a disaster zone.
— Tammy Leitner (@TammyLeitnerNBC) April 3, 2017
Children may have been particularly vulnerable as nearly all were in bed when the floods rushed through the city. Santos said at least 43 children were among the confirmed dead, according to The Associated Press.
“You have no idea how many kids there are around here,” Mocoa resident Abelardo Solarte told The Associated Press as he came across a child’s shoe while helping clear debris.
On Sunday, Santos posted on Twitter in Spanish that some 1,900 people have “worked tirelessly and with dedication” to help the disaster-struck city. The president also said he has received telephone calls from heads of state around the world who offered their support and aid.
“Our disposition is to grow in the face of adversity,” he tweeted in Spanish. “We are going to move forward,” he tweeted.
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