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Colombia launches major emergency ops after floods

by Staff Writers
Bogota (AFP) April 25, 2011
Some 160,000 Colombian police officers and 52 aircraft are participating in emergency operations following deadly floods that killed 67 people and caused widespread damage, officials said Monday.

The police are focusing on rescue, evacuation, food distribution, security at shelters, manning state roads and other emergencies, according to a statement from the police directorate.

The aircraft, which include helicopters, are ready to "respond immediately to any contingency, to the extent that weather conditions permit the movement of equipment," it added.

Government aircraft have completed 102 hours of flight so far this year during which they have transported 223 people affected by floods and overflowing rivers.

Heavy rains that battered Colombia this month have so far left 67 dead, 36 wounded and eight missing, while another 98,000 were injured and 183 homes were destroyed.

That brings the total this year to 90 dead, 15 missing and 208,581 people affected by the disaster, according to the Interior and Justice Ministry.

The heavy rains, triggered by the La Nina weather phenomenon, have caused damage in 28 of the country's 32 departments, and have blocked 16 major roads due to landslides. Some have collapsed entirely.

More than 900,000 hectares (2.22 million acres) of land have been ravaged by rising rivers that overflowed, according to government figures. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos's government has provided victims $176 million in aid.

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