Thursday, December 16, 2010

Heavy rains continue as Colombia seeks to aid flood victims

Chris Kraul in the Los Angeles Times: Even as the government struggled to get emergency relief to thousands of flood victims, torrential rains continued to batter northern Colombia on Wednesday, adding to the misery caused by one of the worst natural disasters in this nation's modern history. Weeks of rainfall — and the breach of an important canal levee — has caused flooding that has killed 257 people and affected more than 1.9 million residents, or nearly 5% of the population. An exact count of those left homeless by water damage in several parts of Colombia was unavailable, but the total is believed to be in the tens of thousands.

…Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa arrived in Cali on Wednesday to offer help and inspect flood damage with Santos. The two leaders also announced the imminent restoration of diplomatic relations, which were severed after Colombian troops invaded Ecuador in 2008 to kill a rebel leader.

Government estimates of damages run up to $5 billion. More than 320,000 schoolchildren are without classrooms, and 1.5 million acres of farmland and cattle pastures have been inundated. Dozens of roads and bridges have been washed out. Officials in Cartagena said this week that most roads leading into the northern port city were closed.

Meteorologists said El Niño conditions call for heavy rains to continue through February. Health officials alerted hospitals and clinics to the possible outbreak of disease among victims exposed to the elements and scarcities of food and clean water….

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