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Colombia landslide kills 93, scores injured

Heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment onto buildings and roads in the provincial capital of Mocoa.

Handout picture released by the Colombian Army press office showing soldiers carrying a corpse following mudslides caused by heavy rains, in Mocoa, Putumayo department, on 1 April 2017. Mudslides in southern Colombia -caused by the rise of the Mocoa River and three tributaries- have claimed at least 16 lives and injured some 65 people following recent torrential rains, the authorities said. Picture: AFP

PUTUMAYO – A landslide in Colombia's southwestern border province of Putumayo sent mud and debris crashing onto houses overnight, killing 93 people and injuring at least 120, officials said on Saturday.

Heavy rains caused several rivers to overflow, pushing sediment onto buildings and roads in the provincial capital of Mocoa.

"At this time we have removed 93 bodies. We have adults, women and infants," police commander Colonel Omar Bonilla told radio station Caracol.

The disaster response unit has so far only given a toll of 24 deaths, with 120 people injured.

"We have sent a team of 150 people to make our response effective and machinery began work immediately," Carlos Ivan Marquez, head of the unit, said in a statement. "We will be with the governor and the mayor giving all necessary attention."

Photos posted on Twitter by the air force showed neighbourhood streets filled with mud and damaged houses while cell phone videos on social media showed residents searching for survivors in the debris.

"It's a big area," Mocoa Mayor Jose Antonio Castro told Caracol on Saturday. "A big portion of the many houses were just taken by the avalanche but above all the people were warned with enough time and they were able to get out but houses in 17 neighbourhoods have basically been erased."

Two bridges also were destroyed, Castro said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is on his way to the area, the government said. Santos said on Twitter that he was praying for the victims.

Heavy rains and a mountainous landscape regularly cause landslides in the Andean country.

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