Colombia: Avalanche and Flood Risks - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF N° MDRCO015


A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Ituango Hydroelectric Project is located on the Lower Cauca river (in the process of construction), northwest of the Antioquia Department, 170 Km from the city of Medellin. Main dam building works cover the land of the Ituango and Briceño municipalities, but its area of influence extends further to the municipalities of Santa Fe de Antioquia, Buriticá, Peque, Liborina, Sabanalarga, Toledo, Olaya, San Andrés de Cuerquia, Valdivia y Yarumal.

Due to a temporal obstruction to the river’s flow by a landslide on the left bank, obstructed water overflowed pouring through ducts at the upper part of the building areas. Water accumulated at a ratio from 10 to 20 cm/h, in 367 meters of current damming capacity. There is only a single way out for the water throughout the turbines chamber, which allows a flow pass from 800 to 1,000 m3/s. Currently, there is no control of the water running throughout the ducts.

These circumstances set an imminent risk situation for the communities downstream of the Dam. As a caution and maximum alert measure, there was an activation of the evacuation plans of downstream communities at Corregimiento Puerto Valdivia and at the municipalities of Cáceres, Tarazá and Caucasia. Workers of hydroelectric project building were also evacuated and are currently safe. On 14 May, the Antioquia State Government declared Public Calamity. The Antioquia Governor estimates that in the worst scenario of the dam's rupture, 113,000 people would be affected.

There is a current state of maximum alert at locations downstream of the project on the Cauca riverbanks: Ituango, Briceño, Valdivia (Corregimiento Puerto Valdivia), Cáceres, Tarazá, Caucasia and Nechí. A preventive evacuation order was issued to the departments of Sucre (Majagual, Guaranda, San Marcos, Sucre, Caimito y San Benito de Abad), Córdoba (Ayapel) and Bolívar (Achí, Magangué y San Jacinto del Cauca). 4,000 people have been evacuated up to May 4 and the process continues.

Summary of the current response

Summary of the actions carried out by the National Society

The Colombian Red Cross Society is working since the emergency onset on response preparation, along with staff from the branches of Antioquia, Sucre, Córdoba y Bolívar (first response perimeter) as well as the branches of Caldas, Risaralda, Quindío, Tolima, Atlántico, Santander, Cundinamarca and Boyacá (second response perimeter), to develop a response capacity assessment (completed) to a situation of potential emergency.

The Unified Command Post (Puesto de Mando Unificado) actively participates with the Colombian Red Cross Society Antioquia branches and the support of the National Society’s Disaster Risk Department. The Colombian Red Cross Society initially sent 3 volunteers to support work teams at the Lower Cauca, and a volunteer emergency manager to back the UCP (Unified Command Post at Ituango).

Up to 17 May, the Colombia Red Cross made relief preparedness actions at the location of the events, counting with 190 people among them managers, staff and volunteers specialized on diverse tasks. Moreover, actions proceeded to support the evacuation deploying 3 vehicles, 2 drivers and 4 psychosocial support volunteers from Quindío and Risaralda branches and National Headquarters.

Since the emergency onset, the CRCS Antioquia branch carried out monitoring and inter-units’ coordination meetings daily, from the Crisis Room at the branch. As a first response:

• 4 off-road vehicles
• 1 truck
• 2 ambulances
• 1 communication and emergency bag
• 1 emergency medical kit
• 80 volunteers of different specialities