Bogota/Panama/Geneva, 19 May 2018 – Red Cross emergency volunteers are being mobilised to help tens of thousands of people threatened by the possible failure of a hydroelectric dam in the north-east of Colombia.

If the dam bursts, devastating floods could affect 120,000 people in five municipalities of the country’s Department of Antioquia. The Colombian authorities have declared a high alert and ordered the evacuation of communities near the Cauca River.

According to the National Disaster Risk Management Unit, UNGRD, only 6,485 of the 120,000 people at high risk have been evacuated so far. The Colombian Red Cross is supporting UNGRD in its preparedness and contingency planning work.

Walter Cotte, Regional Director for the Americas at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “This situation has been worsening for a number of days and now looks like it may be reaching a critical level. It is a priority to guarantee the orderly evacuation of people in the municipalities most at risk.

The Colombian Red Cross has more than 200 volunteers of various specialties ready to be deployed, and has put its search and rescue, and medical staff on alert. We are preparing for the worst.”

The Colombian Red Cross is being supported by IFRC disaster response specialists in-country, who are preparing an Emergency Plan of Action and requesting resources from IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund.

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