Emergency crews were digging out the dead and searching for survivors Monday, after a deadly overnight mudslide left at least 56 dead and more than two dozen injured in rural Colombia.
The disaster struck at around 3 a.m. local time Monday in the town of Salgar, about 60 miles southwest of Medellin, the nation’s second city.
The Red Cross confirmed the body count to local media. However, other authorities, including President Juan Manuel Santos, said the confirmed death toll was 48.
Authorities said heavy rain swelled the Liboriana ravine, sparking a mudslide that swept away at least a dozen homes. The epicenter of the damage was about 3 miles away from the city center, local media reported.
The government said that at least 30 families were affected by the flooding and that there were an unknown number missing.
Santos traveled to the hamlet to oversee the rescue operations and declared a state of emergency. He said victims were being taken to Medellin for identification and that authorities would be taking care of children orphaned by the flood. He also promised to rebuild the village.
Carlos Iván Márquez — the director of the nation’s disaster response agency, UNGRD — said there were 166 rescue workers in the area, and local television showed images of backhoes digging alongside destroyed houses.
Villagers said they were awakened by the roar of the river and calls of alarm from neighbors.
“It was rocks and tree trunks everywhere,” Diego Agudelo, a construction worker, told The Associated Press. “The river took out everything in its path.”
Local media showed images of chest-high mud and felled trees. Power and communications to the village were also lost in the flooding.
“No one can bring back the dead,” Santos said of the coffee-growing community in Antioquia department, which has a population of 18,000. “But we have to emerge from this disaster and look forward with courage and strength.”