Colombia: death toll from two months of rains in rises to 75

The death toll from two months of torrential rains in Colombia rose to 75, with another 100 people reported injured and nearly 180,000 homes damaged, authorities said Monday.

Worst-hit are the northwestern provinces of Sucre, Cordoba and Cesar, where severe flooding has wrecked thousands of hectares (acres) of rice and cotton fields and forced many farmers to abandon their farms. The military has diverted boats normally used to patrol Colombia's riverways against leftist rebel attacks to ferry in food, medicine, blankets and tents.

President Alvaro Uribe toured northwest Colombia on Sunday and pledged to invest US$27.2 million (Ђ22.79 million) on dikes and other infrastructure projects to help avert flooding in the future. He also promised tax breaks for affected farmers to offset financial losses, the AP reports.

Authorities hope to repair most of the damage to homes and tourist resorts caused by the passage a week ago of tropical storm Beta across the Colombian-owned Caribbean islands of Old Providence and Santa Catalina ahead of the busy tourism season. Beta later turned into a hurricane before making landfall in Nicaragua.

The annual tropical rains, which began in early September, are expected to continue until mid-December, raising fears of further deaths. A.M.

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