Hundreds remain missing following Colombia landslides

Hundreds of people are still missing, and at least 254 are known to have died since a water avalanche engulfed the city of Macoa

Hundreds remain missing following Colombia landslides

Firefighters and rescuers cover with a blanket the body of a woman in Mocoa, Colombia, 02-04-2017. Image: AP Photo/Fernando Vergara

Rescuers are continuing a desperate search through mud and rubble for survivors of what has been described as a water avalanche in Colombia.

Hundreds of people are still missing, and at least 254 are known to have died since flooding and landslides engulfed the city of Macoa in the northwest of the country over the weekend.

The mudslides were triggered when torrential rain caused three rivers in the South to overflow.

More than 500 people were moved to emergency housing and social services had helped 10 lost children find their parents overnight.

Volunteers and emergency services tended to 82 bodies downstream from Macoa, in the town of Villagarzon.

The town mayor told the Reuters news agency that many corpses were still caught in debris.

"We had to recover them ourselves. We think we'll find more," he said adding that the town had no coffins or sanitary storage.

The country’s president Jean Manuel Santos made a second visit to the area on Sunday and pledged to ensure that water and energy services would be restored as soon as possible.

President Santos blamed climate change for the disaster - saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night.

"Today we begin planning the reconstruction of Mocoa," he tweeted this morning. "We are going to recover and improve the affected homes." 

The streets in the city have been covered in sand, mud and tree limbs from the rivers and rainforest that surround the city.

There is little drinking water and no power as families desperately search for their loved ones:

“I am looking for my three daughters and my tiny granddaughter,” said one local woman. “They disappeared when it happened and I haven’t been able to find them.”

“I ask the whole world, the whole society to help me. Whether they are dead or alive I want to see them.”

The President, Michael D Higgins has written to the President of the Republic of Colombia to express his sympathies

Almost 350,000 people live in Mocoa, which sits near Colombia's border with Ecuador.

Colombia's deadliest landslide, the 1985 Armero disaster, killed more than 20,000 people.