The fourth worst weather-related disaster in Colombia history was bound to happen some day. Just like the Himalayas, the naturally rainy Andean Mountains are filled with ultra-steep drops, making it easy for heavy rains to landslide great boulders at high speed into the populated areas below. March 2017 was extremely wet, pelting the area around Mocoa with 150 percent the average monthly rainfall. A few hours before and just after midnight April 1, over five inches of rain fell in the region, overflowing three rivers into a mudflow that devastated—“erased,” said the mayor—entire neighborhoods along the banks. Besides the 329 known dead, 332 people were injured and 70 missing.
VMs joined more than 2,500 personnel, including 1,400 soldiers and 800 police officers, combing through mountain debris for survivors. The army provided 63 vehicles, 10 helicopters, 7 boats and 6 planes for the response to a disaster described by President Juan Manual Santos as “a disaster caused by nature, by climate change.”
Only days apart in mid September, both Hurricanes Irma and Category 5 Maria walloped the picturesque Caribbean island of Dominica, killing 30 and taking out 80 percent of the island’s homes and buildings. Impassable roads, lack of fresh running water and electricity, and downed phones and internet towers isolated the island for days. A team of Scientology Volunteer Ministers and their partners CINAT, from Colombia, flew in from St. Maarten where they had responded to the Irma disaster on September 6.
When VMs asked “What do you need?” Dominica’s Prime Minister issued a list. The VMs fulfilled it. They delivered three shipping containers of food, water, hygiene supplies, tools and generators. Those vital logistics and distribution services have earned the VMs recognition around the world at more than 200 disaster sites over the past two decades.