Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia landslide: Farc rebels offer to help rebuild town

A man looks at a destroyed area after flooding and mudslides caused by heavy rains in Mocoa Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Santos said there would be government investment to rebuild the town

Colombia's Farc rebel group has offered to help rebuild a town devastated by landslides that killed at least 254 people.

But their involvement in efforts in Mocoa, in the country's south-west, has to be approved by the government.

Meanwhile, the search continues for residents who are still missing.

More than 1,000 soldiers and police are involved in the relief works. Most aid is being sent by helicopter as roads are damaged or blocked.

Aid on the way

President Juan Manuel Santos declared an emergency to speed up aid operations.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hope is fading in the search for the missing

He said a new hospital would be built and that sanitation specialists had been sent to the area, in Putumayo province, to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Water treatment plants would also be set up, he added, as there were reports of people looting stores in search of bottled water.

Mr Santos, who returned to the area on Sunday, also said that a temporary plan to address the lack of electricity should be ready in 10 days.

The offer from the Farc comes as a peace deal in Colombia is implemented.

Thousands of rebels have gathered in so-called "transition zones" in rural areas where they are expected to disarm.

Some 400 rebels live in a camp in nearby La Carmelita, but they would need government authorisation to leave it .

"Speaking with the rebels, they want to go there, to Mocoa, to work and help in the reconstruction," Farc leader Ivan Marquez was quoted by El Colombiano newspaper as saying (in Spanish).

"We are very sad about this tragedy. Our solidarity and condolences go to the people of Mocoa and Putumayo."

The landslide in Mocoa struck in the early hours of Saturday morning, when many people were asleep in bed.

Brazilian football club Chapecoense, which lost 19 players and staff in a plane crash in Colombia in November, sent a message to the people of Mocoa on Twitter saying: "We know how solidarity can give one strength to overcome hard moments. Colombia, our hearts are with you."

They also changed their team's green logo to the colours of the Colombian flag.

Image copyright Twitter

Landslides are a common occurrence in Colombia, a country with a mountainous landscape where homes are often built precariously on steep hillsides.

More than 182 towns across the country were under high alert for possible landslides, Colombia's meteorological agency said.

Forecasters have warned of more rain in the coming days.

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Media captionStav Danaos reports on weather conditions in Colombia

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