21 May 2015

Baby survives Colombia mudslide

8:12 pm on 21 May 2015

An 11-month-old baby has survived a devastating mudslide in Colombia that killed at least 78 people.

Colombian Natalia Rincon shows a picture of baby Jhoset Diaz.

Colombian Natalia Rincon shows a picture of baby Jhoset Diaz. Photo: AFP

The boy's mother and 11 other relatives were swept away in the town of Salgar in north-western Antioquia province on Monday.

Doctors think the infant, who was named as Jhosep Diaz, survived because he was in a padded crib carried more than a kilometre by the waters.

Rescuers are still searching for victims of the mudslide.

The doctors who treated the baby boy said he was very cold but relatively unharmed.

"He was unconscious and didn't open his little eyes but was breathing," Dr Jesus Antonio Guisao told the AP news agency.

The child's grandfather, Alvaro Hernande, is expected to assume custody.

"Amid so much bad news concerning the death of 16 of our relatives, my grandson's survival is a miracle,'' he said.

The landslide was Colombia's worst natural disaster since a 1999 earthquake.

Locals and rescuers are having to search a 40km-long stretch of land on the banks of the Liboriana river.

Most of the residents were asleep when the landslide struck at 03:00 local time.

Leidi Yasmin Alcaraz Flores, 22, was at home in the village of La Liboriana, when her mother woke her up.

"My mother said we had to get out quick," she told the BBC. "She said there was a mudslide.

"I leapt out of bed in what I was wearing, grabbed my kids [a baby almost two years old and a five-year-old boy] and we just got out."

She managed to reach higher ground and waited there till dawn.

The mudslide killed at least 78 people.

The mudslide killed at least 78 people. Photo: AFP

"The river reached 15 or 20 times its normal size," said Cesar Augusto Garcia, a local ombudsman in the municipality of Salgar.

Speaking to the BBC he said: "The river has flooded before but never to this size."

Landslides are common in the mountains of Colombia, where heavy rain often sweeps away poorly built houses.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who visited the area on Tuesday, promised that the survivors would be provided with free housing under a government scheme.

- BBC -