At least 22 dead after a landslide sweeps through a town in Venezuela
A landslide fueled by flooding and days of torrential rain swept through a city in central Venezuela, killing at least 22 people as mud, rocks and trees dragged through the neighborhood, authorities said on Sunday. Dozens of people are missing.
Residents of Las Tejerías in Santos Michelena, an agro-industrial town in Aragua state, 87 kilometers southwest of Caracas, had just seconds to flee to safety late Saturday as debris swept down a mountainside at them.
The official death toll rose to 22 after 20 bodies were recovered on Sunday, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez told state-run Venezolana de Televisión.
“There was a big landslide in the central area of Las Tejerías,” where five creeks burst their banks, she said from the site of the disaster. “We have already found 22 dead, more than 52 are missing.”
“There are still people walled in,” Rodríguez said. “We’re trying to save her, save her alive.”
She said shelters are being set up for people who have lost their homes.
Higher up the mountainside, most homes were swept away, including those of a group of evangelicals praying, when the landslide hit, said homemaker Carmen Teresa Chirinos, a Las Tejerías resident. Weeping families hugged in front of destroyed houses and shops.
“A lot of people are missing,” said Chirinos.
Hours earlier, Major General Carlos Pérez Ampueda, Deputy Minister for Risk Management and Civil Protection, announced via Twitter that several people had been reported missing in the neighborhoods of El Béisbol and La Agotada, north of the city. Dozens of homes were damaged by the landslide.
Rescuers conducted searches with trained dogs and drones, Pérez Ampueda said. Crews of laborers and heavy machinery removed debris to clear roads and restore power and water supplies.
“So many families lost their homes and as a businessman I lost my pizzeria,” said Luis Fuentes, who opened his pizza restaurant two years ago. “Look, I have nothing.”
Aragua Governor Karina Carpio said the flooding had “terribly affected” 21 sectors in Las Tejerías, the capital of the municipality of Santos Michelena, which has a population of about 54,000.
Last week, torrential rains have caused flooding in 11 of Venezuela’s 23 states.
President Nicolás Maduro said 20,000 officers, including rescue workers and members of the security forces, have been deployed to the affected regions.