After a night of heavy rain, the only road in and out of the village of Columbia collapsed in a landslide. Columbia is just outside of the town I live in – Belén de Umbría. This small agricultural community will be without road access for at least six months. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and no cars or motorcycles were traveling on the road as it collapsed.
Growing up in Northwest Indiana and living in Chicago, Istanbul, and Santiago, I never witnessed the impact of landslides firsthand. In NWI and Chicago, I experienced blizzards, floods, a tornado, and even minor tremors. In Istanbul and Santiago, I felt minor to mid-sized earthquakes and we were always wary of being unprepared for “The Big One”.
But with this landslide in Colombia, I was reminded how much damage nature can do if you aren’t prepared or if you don’t correctly build infrastructure or buildings in the first place. There are several roads like the one that collapsed – some I travel on frequently – and a few homes built on cliffsides. If the main road to Belén succumbed to a landslide, besides making it difficult to get in and out of town, there would be no way to efficiently deliver food or supplies to the 13,000 people in Belén. Other roads into the town were not made for horses and jeeps that can only carry so much. The winding mountain road into Belén has been reinforced in the past year, but this landslide will be in the back of my mind every time I leave town (at least until dry season).