Fading hope, long clean-up after Colombia landslide
Salgar: Rescue workers in Colombia resumed the increasingly hopeless search for the missing after a massive landslide, as the death toll rose to 78 and residents began a difficult cleanup.
After spending the night in shelters, residents of La Margarita, the hardest-hit town, returned to the ruins of their community to search for missing family members or shovel out the mud that filled their homes.
Rescuers meanwhile resumed the search for victims, which they had to call off overnight as the heavy rains that triggered the landslide continued pounding the area.
With the help of residents and specially trained dogs, they swept the area looking for more bodies buried in the mud and hoping to find some of the missing still alive.
But hope was growing slim as the death toll continued to rise.
The national disaster management agency said Tuesday that at least 78 people were killed, and 542 were left homeless.
Forensics experts have identified 39 of the bodies, which will undergo autopsies in the city of Medellin, 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the northeast.
The landslide tore through the municipality of Salgar in the mountains of northwest Colombia after the Liboriana River burst its banks and sent a flood of mud rushing down a ravine.
“It’s horrible. There are no words for it. It’s like a dream, like coming in for a landing when you see the magnitude of the disaster,” said Nora Quinceno, who was sleeping like most locals when the disaster struck around 3:00 am Monday.
The survivors faced the gruesome task of searching for their missing neighbors, then pulling their dead bodies from the thick mud.
“Today’s my 70th birthday. The saddest of my life,” said Gildardo Parra, who was helping rescue workers find victims