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Heavy rains and flooding: Colombia's Katrina?

Dozens dead, thousands of homes destroyed and vast tracts of farmland under water.

For example, several smaller streams have been rerouted into the Bogota River, which is also a receptacle for trash and agricultural runoff. Thus, even though the city of Bogota sits 8,600 feet high in the Andes Mountains, massive earthen embankments are required to keep the Bogota River from overflowing.

Guerrero, the rancher, claims the Bogota River should have been dredged to give it more capacity. Pleas by local farmers to reinforce the dikes were ignored. Yet when they began constructing their own levees, Guerrero said authorities threatened them with stiff fines for building without permits.

The police also failed to stop looters who, like modern-day pirates, loaded household goods onto makeshift rafts. As Guerrero’s boat approached his ranch, one of his workers spotted a suspected looter and scared him away with a blast from his shotgun.

At the farm, Guerrero pointed to waterlogged milk tanks and grain storage bins. He counted seven dead cows floating in the water. Guerrero tried to enter his bedroom to recover his passport but the water was too high. The only things he salvaged were a pair of slippers and a paperback book about the history of Egypt.

“I feel an immense sadness,” Guerrero said. “This farm is the result of 100 years of work from the time of my grandparents.”

But there was some good news. Guerrero spotted four of his cats hiding in the rafters. He put a tray of fresh water on the roof and vowed to return with cat food.

Yet Guerrero, who is 70, had no idea when he and his family would be able to move back home. Not only did he suffer an estimated $500,000 in losses, but the contaminated river water could render his land useless for years.