Colombia’s FARC rebels offer to help town destroyed by mudslide

Inhabitants of the San Miguel neighborhood take a break on Sunday amid the debris and rocks left by a mudslide in Mocoa, Colombia, on Saturday. Search and rescue officials continue efforts on Monday to find survivors. Photo by Leonardo Muñoz/EPA

April 3 (UPI) — Colombia’s FARC rebel group has offered to provide assistance to the devastated town of Mocoa following mudslides but such help requires government approval.

“Amid the tragedy in Mocoa, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia sympathizes and accompanies — count on us. We are ready to help,” the FARC group said in a statement.

The FARC rebels are undergoing a transition period established under a peace agreement with the Colombian government to disarm and bring an end to the decades-long conflict between the government and the rebels.

At least 254 people died and more than 200 were injured in Mocoa while dozens more residents were missing after the mudslides over the weekend that occurred when heavy rains caused three rivers to swell and flood the capital of the Putumayo department.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared a state of emergency to offer assistance as quickly as possible. He vowed that the town will recover and that authorities will accelerate the construction of a new hospital in Mocoa, adding that people in the town would have better access to healthcare than before.

“Today we began planning for what will be the reconstruction of Mocoa. We are going to recover and improve the affected homes,” Santos said in a statement. “Colombians, I urge that with generosity we lend a hand to our compatriots in the midst of pain and difficulty.”

Santos said he allocated more than $400,000 in support of the reconstruction and improvement of companies and business to restore economic activity in Mocoa. He said authorities are prioritizing construction of an aqueduct to provide the city with potable water. Officials have set up four temporary water treatment centers.

Colombian authorities set up triage centers to treat those injured. More than half of Colombia’s Putumayo department was left without electricity following the recent severe weather, though officials said they are working to restore power.

During a speech on Sunday, Santos said each family who lost a home would receive a monthly rent subsidy of $87. He said he ultimately wants to construct new homes in Mocoa that are less vulnerable to weather-related incidents.

It is not clear if Santos would grant FARC’s request to help rescue efforts in the afflicted town.

More than 220,000 people have died and 5 million have been internally displaced due to the Colombian conflict since the FARC’s Marxist-inspired founding in 1964. The militant rebel group has been involved in drug-trafficking, kidnapping and other illicit activity to fund its insurgency.


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