Landslide in Venezuela: Las Tejerias buries its dead

Landslide in Venezuela: Las Tejerias buries its dead

“We love you Princess”, we can read Friday on a still fresh cement grave. It belongs to a three-year-old girl among the hundred victims of the landslide that occurred in Las Tejerias, north-central Venezuela.

Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos told Telesur TV on Thursday that “50 people” had “regrettably lost their lives” and their bodies had been “returned” to their loved ones. However, he did not provide information on the number of missing people, which was 56 on Tuesday.

A putrid smell emanates from the cemetery of the small town of 50,000 inhabitants built on the mountainside, which was devastated on Saturday by mudslides that swept away everything in their path: houses, trees, stones, cars.

Of the 50 bodies found, 16 were buried, according to cemetery workers.

“It was sad,” says one of them, who asked not to be named, clearing the bush. “This belongs to a three-year-old girl who slipped out of her mother’s arms when the tragedy happened,” he adds, pointing to the blue-tiled grave where the little girl was buried on Thursday.

A few yards away, a mound of earth with a small bouquet of flowers covers the grave of an elderly couple.

Two more burials are planned for this Friday, but we have to wait for the forensic identification of the bodies.

A woman cleans mud at her shop in Las Tejerias, Venezuela, October 14, 2022 (AFP – Miguel ZAMBRANO)

Raul Borges doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to. He found his wife dead in the river and when he went to get the body from the morgue, he was told it had already been released… “They say they don’t have it,” explains this red-eyed, 67-year-old man. Authorities could not tell him who the body had been given to.

– UN visit –

Meanwhile, the cleanup and restoration of power to the city continues while much of the debris and mud that has accumulated there has been cleared from the main streets.

Cleaning work in Las Tejerías, Venezuela, on October 14, 2022 (AFP - Miguel ZAMBRANO)
Cleaning work in Las Tejerías, Venezuela, on October 14, 2022 (AFP – Miguel ZAMBRANO)

Electricity and phone company crews are busy while tankers make water distribution shuttles. Some shops have even reopened.

Entire areas remain inaccessible, however, and many residents of Las Tejerias continue to dump mud and water from their homes.

On Wednesday, military helicopters dropped food packages.

“It all happened in seconds,” said Jesus Chavez, a 32-year-old survivor. “We managed to jump from roof to roof. People shouted +Help! Help!+”.

“I tried to hand a boy a hose (for him to hold on to). But he didn’t come out. The current was too strong. He got carried away,” he continues, claiming to be silent managed to save six people, including a woman who “lost her two babies, including a couple of months old.”

The authorities have set up reception centers for those affected, who are temporarily housed in social housing in other regions of Venezuela.

A UN commission was scheduled to visit Las Tejerias on Friday. In particular, it should provide humanitarian aid, a UN source told AFP.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a statement Thursday it had donated “medicines and materials for 5,000 people” to the Ministry of Health, as well as “10,000 water purification tablets, each of which can purify 10 liters of drinking water.”


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