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By Deborah Bloom, Angela Dewan, Jennifer Deaton and Mariano Castillo, CNN
Updated 11:18 AM ET, Mon April 3, 2017
Torrential rains Friday night caused three rivers surrounding the southern city of Mocoa to overflow -- sending a torrent of mud and debris surging through the city.
President Juan Manuel Santos said 170 victims had been identified.
He said 43 children were among the dead and 22 more had been hospitalized. A further 203 people were injured, many severely.
Save the Children said at least 70 children had been separated from their parents.
The organization said it would be working to support children and families in the area and was helping to coordinate hygiene kits and temporary friendly spaces for affected children to attend.
"This is obviously a highly shocking and chaotic situation for the population in the most vulnerable situation, especially pregnant women, children and adolescents," executive director Maria Paula Martinez said in a statement calling for support.
Heavy rains, high levels of deforestation, informal housing and dense human populations are some factors that can leave communities vulnerable to landslides, scientists say.
CNN meteorologist Michael Guy says it appears that the surrounding region had saturated ground from above-average rainfall this year.
[President Juan Manuel] Santos blamed climate change for triggering the avalanche, saying that the accumulated rainfall in one night was almost half the amount Mocoa normally receives in the entire month of March. With the rainy season in much of Colombia just beginning, he said local and national authorities need to redouble their efforts to prevent a similar tragedy.