On Friday, January 12, landslides hit the town El Carmen de Atrato in Colombia, reportedly killing at least 33 people. The landslides occurred on the roads between the cities of Quibdó and Medellín in the Chocó Department of North Western Colombia after the area experienced 24 hours of heavy rain. It was initially reported that the death toll was 18, with numerous other people with severe injuries, but it crept up to the thirties on Saturday. 17 corpses have been identified, with the rest of the identities still being determined.
Colombia’s Vice President Francia Márquez announced on X, “At this time, search and rescue actions continue for the people who remain trapped under the landslide on the Quibdó-Medellín highway, in Carmen del Atrato (...) All our solidarity with the department of Chocó and the families of the victims.” President Gustavo Petro described the incident as a “horrible tragedy” and further stated, “The families of the victims will receive direct help from the government.” It was reported that a first landslide occurred, forcing those caught in it to seek refuge, before a second one hit, which is what supposedly killed the victims. The President visited the site of the landslide and is meeting with the Governor of Chocó to discuss ways to invest in resources to aid those who suffer in times like these.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Colombia has suffered from natural disasters. In July 2023, mudslides in the Southeastern town of Quetame killed 14 people. Also, in December 2022, a landslide buried a bus in the North West region of the country, which ended up with 34 fatalities. Another incident was in Mocoa back in 2017 when at least 250 people were killed. Perhaps one of the biggest weather-related disasters to hit Colombia was back in 2010 when floods and landslides caused by rainfalls affected around 70 percent of the country, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions homeless.
Landslides, drought, and heavy rainfall are extremely common in Colombia due to being located in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, and El Carmen De Atrato was subject to this landslide because of mountains and other highland terrains in the area, which heighten the chance of a devastating landslide.
A landslide is “the movement downslope of a mass of rock, debris, earth, or soil” that happens “when gravitational and other types of shear stresses within a slope exceed the shear strength of the materials that form the slope.” If this area of Colombia were to experience more rain, it could pose a threat to low-lying communities that are located near bodies of water, like rivers or streams. The country is due to experience its rainy season this spring, in 2022 the country declared a national disaster due to the impacts of the La Niña weather phenomenon that caused drought throughout some areas of the world. Throughout December and January Colombia then experienced heavy rainfall which affected many. The extreme weather conditions of this country are expected to return to normal after the passing of La Niña, so hopefully there will be no further fatal disasters like this one.
Edited by Chloe Mansola
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