Devastating mudslides in the Colombian town of Mocoa killed at least 254 people including 43 children, President Juan Manuel Santos said Sunday, as survivors described gruesome scenes amid the ruins.
Santos, who traveled to the southern town to personally oversee relief operations, warned the toll could keep climbing.
“Unfortunately, these are still preliminary figures,” he wrote on Twitter, after giving an earlier toll of 210.
More than 200 were injured in the disaster.
Survivors and rescuers kept up a bleak search for victims in the muck and debris.
Covered in mud, 38-year-old Marta Gomez told of going to search for her missing niece — and making a chilling find instead.
“I went to look for my niece, but I couldn’t find her. I dug and dug and found what turned out to be a baby’s hand. It was horrible,” she said in a shelter set up for the newly homeless.
As she stood in line waiting to register for government assistance for those who lost their houses, Gomez told AFP she had given up on finding her niece.
“The mud took her away. I’ll never see her again,” she said, clinging to the leash of her equally muddy German shepherd.
Rescuers worked in stifling heat under a cloudy sky in the remote Amazon town, the capital of Putumayo department.
The debris left by the mudslides was everywhere: buried cars, uprooted trees, children’s toys and stray shoes sticking up out of the mud.