Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing
A car carrying students is seen next to an Escambray mountain in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo
Venezuelan authorities in western El Yucatan state where a landslide destroyed many homes and caused the deaths of at least 39 people say at least 50 people are still missing.
The landslide hit a village called Mocua on Sunday, said state authorities, who do not have a full count of the dead. The official death toll is 39, but some media said the figure could be as high as 80.
The landslide, which investigators said was triggered by a “catastrophic landslide”, struck at about 1:00 am (0300 GMT) as people were returning home from a holiday at a mountain resort.
The government has declared that the disaster is an environmental catastrophe. Authorities have accused President Nicolas Maduro’s government of responsibility, and Maduro has called on residents to help find those missing.
“In response to the devastating landslide that hit El Yucatan, the Venezuelan government will provide all possible means to rescue those who are missing and protect those who need medical assistance,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, tweeted.
Venezuela’s interior ministry said on Twitter that the ministry was in contact with neighboring countries about the landslide.
The head of the state-run energy utility Electricidad de Caracas, Javier Perez said that a team of experts visited the site Wednesday and said they would take samples of the soil.
“We will conduct an accurate analysis of the soil and take the necessary precautions to prevent this from happening again,” he said.
The disaster came less than a month after a landslide in the same remote region destroyed thousands of acres of farmland.
The government has been struggling to restore infrastructure after the 2014 collapse of Venezuela’s economy, which has been weighed down by chronic inflation and years of socialist rule.