Pope ‘deeply pained’ by deaths and destruction in Colombia

Rescuers seek people among the rubble left by mudslides following heavy rains in Mocoa, southern Colombia. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2017

Pope ‘deeply pained’ by deaths and destruction in Colombia

MOCOA, Colombia: Colombia on Sunday mourned the deaths of an estimated 200 people in the mudslide-devastated town of Mocoa as rescuers searched for survivors in a sea of muck and debris.
Pope Francis weighed in with a message of grief and solidarity with the suffering people of Mocoa, a town of 40,000 in Colombia’s Amazon basin.
“I pray for the victims and want to assure those who weep for the missing of my closeness to them,” the pope said in a statement.
The pope said he is “deeply pained” by “the gigantic avalanche of mud” in Colombia.
The torrent of mud, boulders and debris struck the town with little warning late Friday after days of heavy rains that caused three area rivers to flood.
It swept away homes, bridges, vehicles and trees, leaving piles of wrecked timber buried in thick mud.
The Colombian Red Cross put the number of confirmed deaths at 200. But authorities conceded the death toll could easily go higher because many people were still unaccounted for .
At least 203 people were injured, some 300 families were affected and 25 homes destroyed, the Red Cross said.
As the rain lifted, residents picked their way through a landscape of destruction looking for loved ones or trying to salvage meager belongings.
Most of the hardest hit neighborhoods are poor and populated with people uprooted during the country’s five-decade-long civil war.
Marta Ceballos, a 44-year-old street vendor, said she lost everything to the mudslide, but said she is thankful her family is alive.
“I do not want to even remember that,” she said.
“To see how some people screamed, and others cried, ran, tried to flee in cars, on motorcycles, and how they were trapped in the mud. It’s all too, too difficult,” she said.
“The only things I fortunately did not lose were my husband, my daughters and my nephews,” she said.
Light rain and showers were in the forecast for Sunday but precipitation was expected to diminish Monday and Tuesday, Colombia’s national weather institute said.
President Juan Manuel Santos was scheduled to return on Sunday to Mocoa, the capital of the department of Putumayo, along with Cabinet ministers to supervise rescue efforts in the heavily forested region.
The president met with rescuers and survivors in Mocoa on Saturday, and declared a public health and safety emergency to speed up rescue and aid operations.
Putumayo Gov. Sorrel Aroca called the event “an unprecedented tragedy” for the area.
There are “hundreds of families we have not yet found and whole neighborhoods have disappeared,” he told W Radio on Saturday.
Carlos Ivan Marquez, director of the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, said that the mudslides were caused by the rise of the Mocoa River and its tributaries.
Some 130 millimeters of rain fell on Friday night, Santos said. “That means 30 percent of monthly rainfall fell (in one night), which precipitated a sudden rise of several rivers,” he said.
“Our prayers are with the victims and those affected,” he added.
One thousand emergency personnel, including soldiers and local police, were deployed to help the rescue effort. Mocoa was left without power or running water, and there were reports of people looting stores searching for bottled water.
“There are lots of people in the streets, lots of people displaced and many houses have collapsed,” retired Mocoa resident Hernando Rodriguez, 69, said by telephone.


Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.


Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.