BELLO, Colombia (AP) – An intense rainstorm triggered a landslide that buried part of a shantytown on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Medellin, killing at least 26 people, many of them children, officials said Friday.

Rescuers on Friday recovered the bodies and continued digging through the mud as nearly 30 people remained missing, said Claudia Helena Velez, a municipal official in Bello, 160 miles northwest of Bogota.

The landslide, which brought mud, trees, garbage and rocks sweeping through the town of Bello, occurred late Thursday after five hours of heavy rains that loosened the earth in the boulder-covered mountain above the town.

At least 11 of those killed were children, said Gen. Ruben Carrillo, police chief of Antioquia state.

About a dozen homes, many made of plywood with tin roofs, were destroyed, and entire families were killed by the mudslide.

“I lost my nephews, my uncle and a cousin,” said survivor Jose Velasquez, who said he and the others in his family were sleeping when the horror began.

Bernardo Cifuentes, a man in his 30s, went running up the mountain when the earth began moving to look for his father who lived in a fragile home on the side of a ravine. He never reached his father and was swept away.

Rescuers tried for five hours to free Cifuentes, tossing down a rope to extricate him.

His wife Adriana Monsalve watched as rescuers pulled Cifuentes free of the muck, believing he might be alive because his arms were outstretched with his hands clenched around the rescue rope. But Monsalve began to sob when rescuers told her they had not pulled him out in time, and that Cifuentes’ hands were frozen around the rope from rigor mortis.

It was not clear if Cifuentes’ father survived.

More than 100 people, including firefighters and members of the civil defense agency, were participating in the rescue effort. Residents looked for missing loved ones, gouging at the muck with shovels and other tools.

Colombian authorities announced a general alert throughout the region, warning that the heavy rains could continue during the weekend.


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