A landslide in Colombia has killed at least 78 people, injured dozens, and destroyed the homes of more than 500 people. The death count could rise as authorities have yet to account for exactly how many people are missing, though some estimates put the number at more than 100.
Heavy rain in northwest Colombia triggered the landslide. As a result of the rain, a river burst its banks, pushing mud through the municipality of Salgar, 60 miles southwest of Medellín.
Most of the area’s 18,000 residents were asleep when the landslide struck at 3 a.m. local time on May 18. The weekend was a long weekend in Colombia, likely meaning more people were in town to visit from larger cities, such as Medellín.
Search and rescue efforts have continued in the days after the tragedy. Hundreds of emergency response workers and volunteers responded to the disaster, sifting through the debris with the help of sniffer dogs, looking for survivors. But hope of finding anyone left alive fades with every passing hour. Rescue efforts were temporarily halted at one point, due to heavy rain. Firefighters said that the chances of finding any survivors in the thick mud were slim.
One resident lost 15 of her relatives in the disaster.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to the disaster area to witness the damage and relief effort. He stated that the government would provide shelter and assistance to those affected.
According to local media reports, Salgar’s municipal development plan for 2012 to 2015 had highlighted landslides as a risk to the area.
Landslides are common in Colombia’s mountainous regions, where houses are often constructed with basic materials and are not strong enough to withstand much force. In 2011, frequent downpours over a period of several months led to flooding and landslides that killed hundreds.