Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia declares emergency as first Mocoa landslide victims buried

Relatives and friends of Deisy Rosero, 26, mourn during her funeral at a cemetery in Mocoa, Putumayo department, southern Colombia Image copyright AFP
Image caption Survivors of Saturday's landslide have begun to bury their loved ones

Colombia's president has declared an "economic, social and ecological emergency" as the first victims of the Mocoa landslide were laid to rest.

Juan Manuel Santos said the government was also putting 40,000m pesos ($13.9m; £11.1m) towards "addressing humanitarian priorities".

At the same time, the first funerals were taking place of the 262 victims killed in Saturday's landslide.

But the hunt still continues for any survivors.

The Red Cross told news agency AFP they were still within the 72-hour window where they would hope to find people alive.

However, hopes were fading among residents still desperate to find family members swept away in the torrent of mud, rocks and debris which struck the south-western town of 40,000 early on Saturday.

The flood came after a night of extremely heavy rain, which raised the water levels of the Mocoa River and three tributaries, sweeping away entire neighbourhoods.

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Media captionOne woman recounted her desperate search for her daughters and granddaughter
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rescue workers continue to search for people in the debris in southern Colombia

Ercy Lopez, 39, who survived by hanging on to a tree, said people were still searching for her daughter Diana Vanesa, 22, but told AFP: "The hopes of finding her alive are slim now."

Those who remain are now awaiting the arrival of humanitarian assistance.

El Espectador (in Spanish) reported there was at least 40 tons of emergency humanitarian assistance on its way to the town, including 2,000 food kits and 1,000 tents.

Meanwhile, President Santos said 7,000 blankets and 6,000 mats had just been delivered, according to El Pais (in Spanish).

On Sunday, Colombia's Farc rebel group offered to help rebuild the town, but their involvement has yet to be approved by the government.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption People are starting to lose hope of finding people alive in Mocoa

Father Omar Parra told Colombian television that everyone was doing what they could to assist.

"Help is mainly coming from other parishes. We've created an emergency committee and we're doing what we can. Assistance hasn't yet arrived, it's just beginning to now. We understand that neither the regional nor the municipal authorities were prepared for this catastrophe so we're doing what we can."

President Santos has vowed investment will be made to make Mocoa better than it was before, and put Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas in charge of the rebuilding of the town.

But President Santos' critics said more should have been done to protect the area from such disasters.

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