Eva Deschamps / October 10, 2022
Rescue teams were still searching Monday for the 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, rescue workers, using searchlights and working with dogs and drones among others, were looking for possible survivors or the bodies of the missing.
“We are working to find the people who are still missing, this is our main task right now and we have to focus on it,” Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos told officials in the region.
Earlier, Ceballos said that “a record amount of rainfall” had fallen on the city, ensuring that the average volume of water that usually falls in a month had fallen in one day.
“These heavy rains have saturated the soil,” the minister added, attributing the rainfall to “climate change” and the passage of Hurricane Julia in northern Venezuela.
Heavy rains in recent days have caused streams to overflow and landslides that have swept away everything in Las Tejerias, a town located on the side of a mountain. Many houses and businesses have been destroyed while streets have been invaded by the mudslide that has carried trees, debris and cars for hundreds of meters.
The latest official toll is 25 dead and 52 injured. “Five streams have overflowed” and “we are seeing very significant damage”, said Vice President Delcy Rodriguez on Sunday.
Thirteen other people died in different regions of the country, also due to this atypical rainy season.
Access to Las Tejerias was blocked on Sunday evening by a large military and police deployment.
Authorities have set up several shelters for affected families in Maracay, the capital of Aragua state where Las Tejerias is located, said Ceballos, who told AFP on Sunday that about 1,000 officials were involved in the relief effort.
Teams of workers equipped with machines were clearing roads covered with debris from the floodwaters with a constant ballet of trucks at the entrance to the city.
The army also announced that it would participate in the efforts.
“The city is lost, Las Tejerías is lost,” lamented Carmen Melendez, 55, one of the residents.
Residents were trying to shovel out the tons of mud that had invaded their homes.
The president Nicolás Maduro decreed three days of national mourning in solidarity with the victims.
The Tigres de Aragua baseball team (the national sport) offered its stadium as a collection center for donations. In the capital, the Leones de Caracas team has also announced that it is collecting mineral water, non-perishable goods and clothing for the survivors.
Venezuela has been facing heavy and exceptional rains for several weeks.
In addition to the Las Tejerias disaster, floods and landslides occurred in several other parts of the country over the weekend, including in the state of Zulia, Venezuela’s oil cradle, or in Choroni on the coast.
In 1999, some 10,000 people died in a major landslide in the northern state of Vargas.