Landslide in Venezuela: Rescuers are looking for 52 missing people
Rescue teams were still searching Monday for 52 people missing in a mudslide that killed at least 25 people in the small town of Las Tejerias, in northern Venezuela.
Despite the night, the rescuers used searchlights and especially dogs and drones to search for possible survivors or the bodies of the missing.
“We are working to find people who are still missing, that is our main task at the moment and that is what we need to focus on,” Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos told regional officials.
Earlier, Mr Ceballos said that “a record amount of rainfall” fell on the city, assuring that the average amount of water that normally falls in a month fell in one day.
“These heavy rains have saturated the ground,” the minister added, attributing the rains to “climate change” and the passage of Hurricane Julia in northern Venezuela.
The torrential rains of the past few days have caused flooding from streams and landslides that have washed away everything in Las Tejerias, a mountainside town. Many homes and businesses were destroyed as streets were inundated by the mudslide, which carried trees, debris and cars hundreds of meters away.
The latest official toll reports 25 dead and 52 injured. “Five creeks have overflowed” and “we are seeing very significant damage,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Sunday.
– Collections for the victims –
Thirteen other people died in different parts of the country, also due to this unusual rainy season.
Access to Las Tejerias was blocked on Sunday evening by a large-scale military and police operation.
Authorities have set up several shelters for affected families in Maracay, the state capital of Aragua, where Las Tejerias is located, said Ceballos, who told AFP on Sunday that around 1,000 officers were taking part in relief efforts.
Machine-equipped teams of workers, with a ceaseless ballet of trucks, cleared the floodwaters from the debris-strewn streets at the entrance to the city.
The army also announced that it would take part in the effort.
“The city is lost, Las Tejerías is lost,” lamented Carmen Melendez, 55, one of the residents.
Local residents tried to shovel away the tons of mud that had seeped into their homes.
President Nicolás Maduro has declared three days of national mourning in solidarity with the victims.
The Tigres de Aragua baseball team (the national sport) made its stadium available as a fundraising center. In the capital, the Leones de Caracas team also announced that it would collect mineral water, durable products and clothing for the survivors.
Venezuela has been facing heavy and exceptional rainfall for several weeks.
In addition to the Las Tejerias disaster, floods and landslides occurred in several other places in the country over the weekend, notably in the state of Zulia, Venezuela’s oil cradle, or in Choroni on the coast.
In 1999, about 10,000 people died in a large landslide in Vargas state in the north of the country.
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