Venezuela landslide: research continues, tiny hope of survivors

Venezuela landslide: research continues, tiny hope of survivors

Around 3,000 rescue workers continued searching Tuesday at the site of the mudslide that killed 36 people in Las Tejerias, in central north Venezuela, but with little hope of finding survivors among the 56 who disappeared three days after the tragedy .

Authorities did not announce any new results on Tuesday, as the last one was announced by Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos late Monday.

It will be “difficult” to find people still alive after Saturday’s disaster, but entrusted AFP to a member of the civil defense on condition of anonymity.

Dramatic scenes follow. Nathalie Matos, 34, shows firefighters the mud-filled room she believes her 65-year-old missing mother is in.

“I know it’s there,” she said. “She was alone (at home). She called me. She said to me: + My daughter, I’m drowning, the water got in, get me out of here! Get me out! Get me out! Save me!”

“I tried to call her back, she answered, but it was noise…” she continues.

Five firefighters try to clear the mud with shovels. “The dog made a mark here, in this area of ​​the living room and kitchen. It matches the information given,” explains a firefighter.

Despite all efforts, the search remains in vain. “I don’t know if I should scream, I don’t know if I should run, I don’t know if I should cry,” Nathalie Matos despairs.

A few meters away, another team is working on the construction site of a house washed away by the floodwaters. Neighbors tried to reconstruct a plan of the house to help rescuers.

“We are guided by the smell (of decomposing bodies) and today we smelled that smell in several houses,” said one firefighter, also on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, rescuers were pessimistic at the end of the day. “It’s been two days and if they (the victims) weren’t hit by stones and branches carried away by the current, they died of hypothermia,” specified a Civil Protection worker.

– “Tejerias is reborn” –

Venezuela experienced an unusual rainy season that lasted most of the year due to the La Niña phenomenon. September was a record month for rainfall, and in recent days torrential downpours, attributed in part to the passage of Hurricane Julia further north, have battered the country. In the past three weeks, 13 people have died elsewhere in the country due to flooding or landslides.

In Las Tejerias, “it rained in eight hours what it rains in a month,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said Sunday.

“Venezuela is still in the rainy season. This year was a bit atypical, with slightly higher precipitation averages in some parts of the country,” explains Angel Custodio of the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology.

The river, which rose by more than six meters, swept away everything that came in its way: trees, rocks, cars, lanterns, telephone poles and entire parts of houses, many of them built in risk areas. The city of 50,000 inhabitants stretches over the mountain slopes.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has declared three days of national mourning, visited the disaster area on Monday. “We must continue the search to find the missing. The families’ plight is very painful,” he said, promising to rebuild destroyed homes and businesses.

“Tejerias will rise like the phoenix, Tejerias will be reborn,” said Maduro.

The Las Tejerias landslide is Venezuela’s worst natural disaster since the turn of the century. In 1999, around 10,000 people died in a large landslide in the state of Vargas in the north of the country.

Authorities have set up shelters for the victims in Maracay, the capital of Aragua, the state where Las Tejerias is located, and announced the distribution of 300 tons of food. In addition, collection points have been set up nationwide to collect donations.


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