A landslide in Las Tejerias (central-northern Venezuela) on Saturday killed “a hundred people,” according to officials. Rescuers on Tuesday evening were not hopeful of finding any survivors among the fifty or so missing.
Forty-three bodies have been found, and “a significant number of missing people remain: 56 missing. We are reaching almost a hundred victims who died in this natural disaster,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on state television VTV. .
The previous count put 36 people dead and 56 missing. A three-day national mourning was declared on Sunday. “Tejerias will be reborn from pain, sadness, devastation and Tejerias will shine again in life, in peace. Onward Tejerias!” The President, who made similar comments when he visited the site on Monday, added:
Vice President Delsey Rodriguez said much of the city has now regained power and phone connections have been restored.
No more illusions
About 3,000 rescue workers continued to search the site of the mudslide on Tuesday, but were under no illusions. A member of the civil defense, speaking on condition of anonymity, assured the AFP it would be “difficult” to find anyone still alive.
Dramatic scenes followed. Nathalie Matos, 34, points firefighters to the mud-filled room where she thinks her missing 65-year-old mother is. “I know she’s there,” she said. “She was alone (at home). She called me. She said to me: ‘My daughter I am drowning, the water has entered, 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 signs of what is here, the living room and the kitchen. It corresponds to the given sign,” explains a firefighter. Despite efforts, the search was futile. “I don’t know if I should scream, if I should run, if I should cry, if I should cry,” Nathalie Matos said in frustration.
A few meters away, another team is working on the site of a flooded house. Neighbors tried to reconstruct the plan of the house to help with rescue efforts.
“Guided by Scent”
“We are guided by the (decomposing body) smell and we smelled it in many houses today,” explained one firefighter, also on condition of anonymity.
By the end of the day on Monday, rescuers were already desperate. “It’s already been two days and if they (the victims) didn’t die from being hit by stones and branches carried away by the current, they died of hypothermia,” the civil defense member noted.
Venezuela experienced an unusual rainy season that lasted almost the entire year due to the La Niña phenomenon. September was a record month for rainfall and the downpours in recent days have lashed the country as Hurricane Julia passed further north. In the last three weeks, 13 people have died due to floods or landslides in other parts of the country.
Worst disaster since 1999
In Las Tejerias, “a month’s worth of rain fell in eight hours,” the vice president said Sunday. The river, which rose more than six meters, swept away everything in its path: trees, rocks, cars, lampposts, telephone poles and entire sections of houses, many of which were built in danger zones. The city of 50,000 people is packed into the hillsides.
The Las Tejerias landslide is Venezuela’s worst natural disaster since the turn of the century. In 1999, a massive landslide in Vargas state in the north of the country killed around 10,000 people.
Authorities have set up shelters for victims in Marrakesh, the capital of Aragua, the state where Las Tejerias is located, and have announced the distribution of 300 tons of food. Collection centers have also been set up across the country to collect donations.
This article was published automatically. Sources: ats / afp
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