From: Albeiro Lopera, Reuters, BELLO, Colombia
Published December 7, 2010 07:02 AM

Colombia landslide kills 19, more than 100 missing

Rescuers pulled 19 bodies on Monday from a mudslide in northwestern Colombia where more than 100 people are still missing after weeks of heavy rain across the Andean nation.

Relatives sobbed as rescue workers and neighbors used earthmovers, picks and shovels to dig through the mud after a sodden hillside collapsed on Sunday and buried 50 homes in Bello town, near Antioquia province's capital Medellin.

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"In total we have recovered 19 bodies and we are still searching," said Jorge Ivan Nova, sub-director of rescue operations at the Red Cross. "We are still working because there is hope we could find people alive."

Rescuers also used dogs to search for survivors.

Bello's government secretary, Diego Munoz, said 124 people were missing while other officials have said there were up to 145 people.

Rain and flooding have forced 1.5 million people from their homes this year in what the government calls one of the worst natural disasters in Colombia's history. The bad weather has also hindered the coffee, coal and agriculture sectors.

Neighboring Venezuela is suffering as well, with tens of thousands of people displaced and President Hugo Chavez blaming "criminal" capitalism for climate changes.

In Bello, Orfanely Madrigal cried as rescuers and residents slowly dug at the mud that buried her children, her mother and other family members.

"I foresaw this tragedy. I told my mother this was a high-risk area but nobody believed me," she said. "I've lost half my family -- my mother, four brothers, nephews and my 13- and 10-year-old daughters," she said on local radio.

Photo shows rescue workers and residents working at the site of a landslide in Bello December 6, 2010.
Credit: REUTERS/Albeiro Lopera

Article continues: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B55MK20101207

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