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News > Colombia

El Niño Puts Colombia in a Disaster Situation

  • Forest fire in the eastern hills of Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 24, 2023.

    Forest fire in the eastern hills of Bogota, Colombia, Jan. 24, 2023. | Photo: X/ @RevistaSemana

Published 25 January 2024

Fire, drought, and landslides generate risks in different areas of this South American country.

On Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro declared "natural disaster situation" to mobilize resources and address the impacts caused by the El Niño phenomenon, which has triggered fires and drought in this South American country.


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"We have had over 500 fires, and there are 60 municipalities experiencing water stress. The alert for landslides on the Pacific coast remains," he said after a meeting with mayors and institutions in Tumaco.

Environment Minister Susana Muhamad reported that 27 fires remain active in the departments of Santander, Norte de Santander, Boyaca, Vichada, Antioquia, and Cesar.

The most complicated situation is in Santander, where the flames consumed hundreds of hectares over the weekend. Currently, the fires are spreading through the Berlin paramo, where a valley of frailejones in the municipality of Tona was reduced to ashes.

The text reads, "Petro declares a natural disaster in Colombia. The President confirmed that the decree will be valid for one year and will seek to transfer resources from other agencies."

On Wednesday, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology, and Environmental Studies (IDEM) reported that the threat alert for fire risk is active in 952 municipalities, 586 of which are under a red alert. The threat of landslide risk is in effect in 33 municipalities, 7 of which have already moved to a red alert.

During this week, the Colombian president moved the Executive Branch headquarters to Tumaco to analyze the situation and make decisions.

"The outgoing and incoming mayors were warned of the seriousness of the El Niño," Petro said, explaining that most municipalities lack the capacity to make their own land-use and climate risk mitigation plans, so the central government must take on those tasks.

The Colombian President lamented that his country has not developed a good climate change adaptation plan or risk management strategies in previous administrations.


Gustavo Petro
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