Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia: Mudslides cause major damage in Utica

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionFloodwaters and thick mud have made life miserable for many in Colombia

More than 200 families have been left homeless in the central Colombian town of Utica after a mudslide swept away their houses.

Heavy rains caused the local river to break its banks, sending torrents of water, mud and stones through the town's streets.

Officials said one elderly woman died and two men are missing.

Meteorologists say five of Colombia's provinces have seen double the average rainfall for April.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he would visit Utica to inspect the damage caused to the town.

Utica mayor Marcel Hernandez said 238 families had been "left with nothing".

Continuing threat

Officials said more than 80% of the town had been engulfed by the mudslide.

Residents recounted how they had been alerted to the approaching mudslide by the ringing of the church bells.

Image caption Some residents have returned to their homes to salvage some possessions

Most were able to flee their homes in time.

The government said it would send a group of experts to Utica to assess whether it was safe for residents to return to the town or if there could be sinkholes or other geological faults.

As meteorologists forecast more rain for the area, firefighters did not rule out the possibility of another mudslide.

Government officials in Cundinamarca, where Utica is located, said they would decide over the next few days whether to rebuild the whole town on safer, higher ground.

The heavy rains are not restricted to Cundinamarca. In central Tolima province officials have put the town of Honda on high alert as the level of the river Magdalena continues to rise.

Nationwide, 12 major highways have been closed due to the continuing rains and flooding.

Colombia has been suffering from a particularly wet winter, which officials say has affected almost three million people across the country.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites