International desk – More than 250 people have been killed in a devastating landslide in southwestern Colombia, the authorities said on Sunday.
The country’s security forces say they are searching for hundreds of missing people after heavy mudslides left at least 254 dead, according to BBC report.
About 1,100 soldiers and police are involved in the rescue effort.
Heavy rain flooded the city of Mocoa in the country’s southwest with mud and rocks, burying whole neighbourhoods and forcing residents to flee their homes.
At least 400 injured and 200 still missing in the capital of Putumayo province, according to an army statement.
Colombian Red Cross volunteers in the area also put the death toll at more than 200.
The aid group said it was working to help family members contact each other, and that the operation was continuing into the night.
President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency in the region and flew in to oversee the rescue effort.
“We will do everything possible to help them,” he said. “It breaks my heart.”
The Colombian Air Force is bringing equipment, water and medicine to the area as the search operation continues.
Photos posted to social media by the air force showed some patients being evacuated by air.
“Our heroes will remain in the tragedy zone until the emergency is over,” the army’s statement said.
Colombia’s director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit said that a third of the region’s expected monthly rain fell during one night.
The unusually heavy rain caused the rivers to burst their banks.
Mocoa is the capital of the Putumayo region, on the border with Ecuador and Peru.
Landslides have struck the region several times in recent months.
In November, nine people died in the town of El Tambo, about 140km from Mocoa, during a landslide which followed heavy rain.
Less than a month before that, another landslide killed several people near Medellin, almost 500km to the north.
In neighbouring Peru, more than 90 people have died since the start of the year because of unusually heavy rainfall, which also caused landslides and flash floods, according to the BBC.