Colombia landslide: 112 dead after river bursts its banks in south America

Fiona Simpson
Homes destroyed: 112 people have been confirmed dead in Columbia: Columbia Fire Service

More than 100 people have died after an avalanche of water from an overflowing river swept through a city in Colombia destroying homes and killing people while they slept, officials said.

The country’s president said 112 people have been confirmed dead.

The incident triggered by intense rains happened around midnight on Saturday in Mocoa, a city of about 350,000 located near Colombia's border with Ecuador, tucked between mountains and at the crux of two rivers.

Muddy water and debris quickly surged the city's streets, toppling homes, ripping trees from their roots, lifting cars and lorries and carrying them downstream.

With most of the community asleep when the water avalanche began, many residents did not have enough time to climb on top of their roofs or seek safety on higher ground.

Herman Granados, a surgeon at the local hospital, said he believed there are likely to be more than 300 people injured and that doctors were quickly running out of blood.

"Under the mud, I am sure there are many more," he said on Saturday after working throughout the night on patients.

President Juan Manuel Santos was traveling to the region and called on the military and disaster authorities to respond to the disaster.

"Our prayers are with the victims," he said in a statement.

Witnesses described feeling buildings vibrate as the flood began. Although an alarm reportedly went off, it could not be heard throughout the city, survivors said.

"There are many people looking for their relatives," said Oscar Forero, a spokesman with the Colombian Red Cross.

The Red Cross planned to set up a special unit in Mocoa on Saturday afternoon to help relatives search for their relatives.