WASHINGTON - Families and rescuers searched Sunday for victims of flooding and landslides in southern Colombia that have killed at least 254 people, including children, injured hundreds, and devastated entire neighborhoods.
“Unfortunately, these are still preliminary figures,” tweeted President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to the town of Mocoa again Sunday to supervise relief operations. “We offer our prayers for all of them. We send our condolences and the entire country's sympathies to their families,” Santos wrote.
He blamed climate change for the disaster, saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night.
Santos thanked China and the Inter-American Development Bank for donating $1 million and $200,000 respectively toward relief efforts, as well as Germany and Belgium.
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.
Volunteers and firefighters tended to 82 bodies downstream in the town of Villagarzon and said many corpses were still caught in debris.
Disaster officials said more than 500 people were staying in emergency housing and social services had helped 10 lost children find their parents.
The catastrophe came after days of torrential rains that left large parts of the region without electrical power or running water.
Pope Francis addressed the tragedy Sunday at the Vatican, saying he was “profoundly saddened.”
In recent months, heavy rains and flooding have struck along the Pacific coast of South America, killing scores of people in Peru and Ecuador.