Three children die as landslide sweeps over Colombian school

Rural elementary school in country’s northwest buried by landslide triggered by heavy rains.

At least three children have been killed by a landslide that buried a rural elementary school in northwestern Colombia, according to authorities.

Officials in Antioquia province said about 20 children of preschool and first-grade age were at recess, along with a teacher and the mother of one of the students, in the cafeteria of La Lejia school when the landslide hit on Thursday.

Most of them escaped unharmed, but three died and two youngsters who had to be dug out of the building were taken to hospital for treatment.

“We give very sad news: three children lost their lives in this event,” Carlos Osorio, the mayor of the nearby town of Andes, told the media, without specifying their ages.

“Fortunately, 17 students got out alive … the teacher and the mother also,” Osorio said, adding that the two hospitalised children were in a stable condition.

The landslide in the mountains south of Medellin was the result of heavy rains plaguing much of Colombia due to the cyclical La Nina weather phenomenon. The rains are projected to continue until September, according to the meteorological institute.

Juan Pablo Lopez, Antioquia’s secretary for territorial development, said water-saturated soil broke loose near the top of the mountain on which the school stands in an area near Andes.

Dozens of villagers helped rescuers from the military in the effort to save the children. Video footage shared on social media showed dozens of people with shovels trying to remove a heap of felled trees and rubble. Two digging machines were also deployed.

Eliana Rincones, the school’s only teacher, told journalists there were 22 children present at the time of the landslide.

“We were at recess when suddenly we heard something very loud; we all turned [to look] and in a matter of seconds we all ran,” she said.

“We didn’t even know where we were running.”

Another landslide on the outskirts of Medellin, some three hours away, killed two people on Thursday, authorities said.

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