Heavy rainfall in southern Colombia caused several rivers to overflow, pushing debris, rocks and ruins into buildings and roads, massively destroying the town of Mocoa. Three riverbanks burst near the northwest municipality in Putumayo province, violently gushing mud through the area.
More than 200 people have reportedly been killed so far while hundreds have gone missing. Heartbreaking aerial footage shows survivors running for their lives.
Families are on a desperate search to find their missing relatives.
“We have a huge challenge to find the missing people,” Carlos Ivan Márquez, the head of Colombia’s natural disaster unit, told reporters.
“The avalanche startled me when I was sleeping, and I went out to the street,” said a 20-year-old firefighter, Carolina Garreta. “People were running and yelling the names of family members. Others were screaming at God.”
One brave officer lost his life in the line of duty while trying to rescue a family.
"Our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of this young Colombian, who chose serving his country as a career, fulfilled his duty to give his own life to save others if necessary and honored his homeland," the police department said.
According to volunteers and firefighters, many dead bodies are still buried under the debris.
“Under the mud, I am sure there are many more,” said Dr. Herman Granados, a surgeon at a hospital in Mocoa. The medical staff noted blood supplies were running low at a time of such catastrophe.
After the massive mud and landslides, the power and water supplies to Mocoa have also been cut off.
A resident of Mocoa explained that floodwaters swept away huge trees just before midnight.
"Those neighborhoods located uphill are the hardest hit. This is complete catastrophe. People would run. They were desperate. They started pulling bodies around three in the morning from those mounds of mud there. I was left with nothing, but my two children," he said. “Everything is truly finished."
A woman lost her child and doesn’t know where to find him.
“A little baby, we can't find him anywhere," she lamented.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who toured Mocoa, declared a state of emergency in the city. He said the effort to restore water service and power to the devastated area was underway. The president also promised the electric power will be restored soon and added that a local hospital was back in operation with proper medical supplies.
Carlos Iván Márquez Pérez, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, said more than 1,300 soldiers, police and emergency officials "will work without stopping" to rescue survivors with the help of helicopters, planes, boats and all-terrain vehicles.