154 dead in river overflow in Colombia

In this handout photo released by the Colombian National Army, soldiers and residents work together in rescue efforts in Mocoa, Colombia, Saturday, April 1, 2017, after an avalanche of water from an overflowing river swept through the city as people slept. The incident triggered by intense rains left at least 100 people dead in Mocoa, located near Colombia's border with Ecuador. (Colombian Army Photo via AP)

President Juan Manuel Santos says the death toll from an avalanche of water near Colombia's border with Ecuador has now reached 154 and is likely to rise further.

But he cautioned against speculating about how many people will remain missing.

Santos spoke to reporters in Mocoa on Saturday after a meeting with civil defense officials. He said that the avalanche knocked out power in half of the province of Putumayo, where Mocoa is located. It also wiped out Mocoa's fresh water network, for which 20 water tankers are on their way from other cities.

He said among the 200 people injured, 22 suffered serious injuries for which they are being airlifted to nearby cities.

He blamed climate change for triggering the avalanche, saying that the previous night's rain was almost half the amount Mocoa normally receives in the entire month of March. With the rainy season in much of Colombia just beginning, he said local and national authorities need to redouble their efforts to prevent a similar tragedy.

Santos says: "These rains are increasingly more intense, so we have to be ready."

The president says that instead of sending supplies Colombians should send donations so that families displaced by the tragedy can rebuild.

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