Disasters & Accidents

Venezuela landslide survivors: between ruin and hope

Las Tejerías, Venezuela, Oct 10 (EFE).- Residents and business owners in Las Tejerías in central Venezuela on Monday assessed the damage caused by the landslide that claimed 36 lives and affected hundreds of residents, with little faith in improvements promised by the government.

On Monday there was more deployment of machinery, as well as security officials, who promoted the clean-up work, while the number of neighbors pitching in to remove debris also grew.

President Nicolás Maduro toured muddy areas, hugged survivors and affirmed that the small city in the state of Aragua “will rise again like the Phoenix.”

“Tejerías will be reborn and we, with our hands, will rebuild Tejerías, rest assured,” he told a crowd of people.

According to the president’s accounts, almost 400 homes have been lost and another 400 damaged, but it is estimated that there are more in surrounding areas.

Carlos Méndez, an accountant who inherited a family business, told EFE that at the time of the landslide on Saturday night, he was in Caracas and it was not until 4 am on Sunday that he was able to contact his relatives, who were all unharmed.

The commercial premises did not come out unscathed, as water entered and destroyed computers, monitors, photocopiers, among other equipment.

“Total loss – everything was lost. The water came in and it was like a cyclone and it destroyed everything we had here,” he said.

Méndez is grateful to still have the structure of the business, but is sad that other residents of Las Tejerías have lost everything, including family members.

A few meters below, from a balcony and through a megaphone, President Maduro promised the residents of Las Tejerías: “Rest assured (…) we are going to recover every last business and every last house.”

Méndez views the promise with both optimism and measure.

A stream that overflowed flooded a hardware store owned by Cristian Pereira, 39, although there was not a total loss. Together with his employees they worked Monday to remove the earth that was left by the landslide.

“It had been raining for a while and in a matter of minutes, at six in the afternoon, water, water, landslide and swamp,” he told EFE.

The force of the water opened holes in several walls of the business and also a nearby bakery.

Like Méndez, he is grateful that among his relatives, friends and acquaintances there have been no disappearances or deaths, but, he insists, there are “many people” who have not been found so far, more than the 60 reported by Maduro.

Although there were promises of recovering material losses, there is still no consolation for those who continue to search for their missing relatives.

Yomaira Lugo, 39, was told that her uncle, whom she has not heard from since Saturday, was transferred to a hospital in Maracay, the capital of Aragua. However, her sister-in-law traveled there and could not find him.

“They went to the hospital and he is not on the list, or anywhere,” she told EFE.

So far, the Venezuelan authorities have reported 36 deaths and “more than 60 missing” in this town where three shelters have been set up and more than 1,200 officials have been deployed to care for the residents of the 23 affected sectors, in which live more than 10,000 families who expect support and solutions. EFE


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