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Death Toll Rises Above 270 in Colombia Disaster


Women cry over the coffin of a relative, a victim of a deadly avalanche due to heavy rains, during a mass burial in Mocoa, Colombia, April 3, 2017.

Burials have begun in southern Colombia for the 273 people killed in Saturday's devastating mudslides.

Health authorities in the town of Mocoa have been releasing the remains to families in order to speed burials and prevent the spread of disease.Meanwhile, rescue workers and residents continued a frantic search in the rubble for the 200 people who remain missing.

The death toll from the disaster includes more than 40 children.

President Juan Manuel Santos has declared an economic emergency for Mocoa, pledging to rebuild a water system damaged in the mudslide.Santos blamed climate change for the disaster, saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night.

Several rivers burst their banks near Mocoa in the early hours of Saturday, sending water, mud and debris crashing down streets and into houses as people slept.

The catastrophe came after days of torrential rains that left large parts of the region without electrical power or running water. This is the worst natural disaster to strike Colombia since 1985, when more than 20,000 people were killed after an eruption at the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano triggered a landslide that overwhelmed the city of Armero.

In recent months, heavy rains and flooding have struck along the Pacific coast of South America, killing scores of people in Peru and Ecuador.

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