2010 Columbia floods
The catastrophic floods and landslides brought on by severe rains this winter in Colombia have killed more than 300 people and resulted in an estimated $5.2 billion in damages, according to Reuters. More than 2.2 million people in over half the country’s territory have been affected. The devastation stretches across 627 municipalities. Worst hit are the departments of Bolívar, Magdalena, Sucre, Córdoba, and Chocó.
In one city, the townspeople woke up at 2am to the sound of screaming and the church bells ringing to warn them that the dyke protecting the town from the flooded Magdelena River had burst. The swollen river poured into the town and the people had to escape through chest-high water to higher ground. Within one hour the whole town was submerged beneath 2-3m of water.
Some parts of the country have been set back 15 to 20 years.
With more than 370,000 homes either damaged or destroyed, many families have had to move into temporary shelters surrounded by floodwaters and dependent on food aid.
Colombian meteorologists have also predicted that rainfall will be heavier than normal during this year’s first rainy season. This has prompted fears of further flooding, mudslides and the spread of disease in April and May.
During February and early March 2011, the level of rainfall around the capital Bogotá was 300 percent above average, causing yet more flooding in certain regions
Colombia’s human, crop, and infrastructure damage were not brought on by the effects of one storm but of many. The series of heavy downpours, high winds, hail, and electric storms began slamming into Colombia in June 2010. By November, the erratic weather left families and children homeless or injured from downed buildings and power lines.
The punishing rains have affected 95% of the country.
The La Niña phenomenon, which occurs every few years in this region of Latin America, is said to be responsible. La Niña refers to a cooler-than-usual sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean that can cause mercurial weather patterns.