BOGOTA, Colombia – Mudslides roared down on settlements in western Colombia, killing at least 10 people, leaving dozens missing and blocking a key highway to the Pacific coast, authorities said Thursday.
Among the missing were eight soldiers who were manning a military checkpoint when landslides Wednesday swept down onto the highway that connects the western city of Cali with the Pacific port of Buenaventura, said Orlando Riascos, a Cauca Valley state official.
On Thursday, another landslide hit the area, about 220 miles southwest of Bogota, the capital. Officials said the avalanches of mud and debris destroyed or damaged scores of dwellings and left about 300 people homeless.
Riascos said emergency crews had recovered six bodies and located four more and were working to pull them from the mud. He estimated that 38 people were still missing.
"We're working intensely in the search for bodies, attending to the victims and in clearing the road," Riascos said.
Among the missing was a journalist who was swept away Thursday. His cameraman was also caught in the slide but later rescued, Riascos said.
The heavy rains blamed for the landslides diminished but the official said Buenaventura would remain severed from the rest of the country for at least four days while crews cleared the road.
"Commerce as well as tourism are paralyzed," said Riasco, adding that some 20,000 people with Easter week holiday reservations at Pacific beach resorts had to cancel.
Hundreds of long-haul trucks were idled, and the state meteorology agency cautioned that the threat of more landslides remained high with the region's rivers still running high.