The Colombian government has set up several bank accounts to accept donations to help victims of the devastating avalanche that has claimed more than 260 lives in southern Colombia.
The disaster in the small city of Mocoa is considered one of the worst natural tragedies in the nation’s history.
A statement posted on the Consulate of Colombia in Miami website says that the best way to help from outside the country is by depositing directly into a Citibank account, which is serving as an intermediary bank.
In the statement, the director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, Carlos Iván Márquez, indicates that the government is currently only receiving humanitarian donations in funds, not “aid in kind.”
President Juan Manuel Santos explained that the contributions in bank accounts are handled by the Risk Management Unit, which guarantees a better distribution of resources.
“If 1,000 mattresses are received, they may not know where to put them, so in-kind donations are greatly appreciated, but it is not the best way to help,” the statement said.
...in-kind donations are greatly appreciated, but it is not the best way to help.
Fabio Andrade of the American Community Center told el Nuevo Herald that several South Florida volunteers are coordinating efforts to raise and send resources directly to organizations such as the Catholic church or the Colombian Red Cross. They will announce details in the next few days.
Andrade said that some people do not feel comfortable sending money directly to the government for fear that the funds will not reach victims directly. In this case, he advised Colombians who are abroad to donate to official entities or send money to relatives in Colombia who will be responsible for buying the supplies and get them to Mocoa.
Meanwhile, international aid has begun to trickle in. The China government has donated $1 million, the Chinese Red Cross has sent $100,000 and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has issued $200,000 in aid.
The avanlanche, caused by the overflooding of three rivers in Mocoa — a city founded in 1563 and capital of the southern department of Putumayo — has turned streets into a “sea of mud” and claimed 262 lives so far.
Rescuers have said the youth may have been particularly vulnerable in this disaster because nearly all were in bed when the floods surged through the city of 40,000 Friday night and early Saturday.
The death toll from the flood, one of the worst natural disasters to strike the country in years, was expected to rise with many suffering from injuries and as many as 200 people still unaccounted for. Bodies were still being pulled from the thick mud, tree limbs and debris that covered much of the city, The Associated Press reported. The deluge smashed houses, tore trees out by the roots and washed cars and trucks away.
Search-and-rescue teams combed through the debris and helped people who had been clawing at huge mounds of mud by hand.
This Mocoa mudslide surpasses the last great natural disaster of Colombia, a landslide in May of 2015 that left 92 dead in the municipality Salgar in the department of Antioquia.
Heavy rains in South America this year have not only hit Colombia. Peru also has suffered devastation by heavy rains that has claimed 100 deaths and more than one million victims, and another 21 people have been killed in Ecuador since January and more than 9,000 families have suffered losses.
This story was supplemented with information from news wire services. Follow Johanna A. Álvarez on Twitter: @Jalvarez8.