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Colombia Recovers 17 Bodies as Deaths From Rains Climb

Rescuers in Colombia have recovered 17 bodies following a mudslide yesterday, pushing the death toll from weeks of heavy rains and harsh winter weather to more than 180 people nationwide.

Hundreds of emergency workers are searching for as many as 145 victims believed to be buried under tons of rocks and mud that swept away a poor, hillside neighborhood outside the city of Medellin, according to Luis Alfredo Ramos, the governor of Antioquia province.

“It’s a tremendous tragedy,” Ramos said today in comments posted on the province’s website. “We’re extremely worried.”

President Juan Manuel Santos said adverse weather will affect as many as 2 million Colombians this winter amid flooding and mudslides that are also hurting the nation’s coffee harvest. Over the weekend, Santos cut short his trip to Argentina, for a summit with leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal, to return to Colombia and oversee the deployment of food and clothing to flooded areas.

Above-average rainfall in neighboring Venezuela has left at least 32 people dead and tens of thousands homeless, while in Colombia more than 260,000 homes have been affected by the bad weather, the government’s disaster relief agency said Dec. 4 on its website.

Deadly Slide, Harvests

The mudslide yesterday in Colombia’s municipality of Bello hit as families met for lunch, increasing the number of victims in a community built of makeshift homes.

The mud buried about 50 residences in a neighborhood where houses are cobbled together from wooden slats, brick and plastic, Bogota-based broadcaster Caracol Radio reported.

Colombia, the second-largest producer of arabica coffee beans after Brazil, will miss forecasts this year after rainfall pummeled the crop, Santos said last week.

The harvest this year “hardly will reach 9 million bags,” he said then. Growers in January forecast output of as much as 12 million bags. Each bag weighs 60 kilograms, or 132 pounds.

The peso fell 0.4 percent to 1,890.35 per dollar at 11:39 a.m. New York time from 1883.30 on Dec. 3.

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