Venezuela floods kill at least 37 after heavy rains

At least 37 residents dead and 52 others are still missing after heavy rains flooded five rivers and damaged nearly 20,000 homes in central Venezuela

  • Floods in the central Venezuela state of Aragua have left 37 people dead, the Aragua Red Cross confirmed Monday
  • At least 52 residents in the town of Las Tejerías were still missing as of Monday 
  • Heavy rain flooded five rivers in Las Tejerías on Saturday night
  • The Aragua Red Cross said that 20,000 homes in the town of 73,000 residents were damaged

At least 37 people have been confirmed dead after five small rivers in central Venezuela flooded due to heavy rains, the local Red Cross chapter in the state of Aragua confirmed Monday.

The downpour on Saturday night swept large tree trunks and debris from surrounding mountains into the community of Las Tejerías, 40 miles southwest of Caracas, damaging businesses and farmland.

Authorities reported that 52 residents were still missing as of Monday afternoon as rescued workers continued to search the area. 

Aragua Red Cross director Dr. Juan Gualano told local news portal Crónica Uno that only  22 of the 37 people who died have been identified.

The storm dumped about a month’s worth of rain over a span of eight hours, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said Sunday.   

Rescue workers resumed efforts to find the 52 people who have been missing since Saturday in Las Tejerías, a town in the central Venezuelan state of Aragua that was hit by heavy rains which caused rivers to flood. At least 37 people have been confirmed dead

Residents provide solace to each other Monday following Saturday’s flood in the central Venezuela town of Las Tejerías that killed 37 people. At least 52 people were still missing as of Monday

Vice President Delcy Rodríguez (center) visits an area flooded in Las Tejerías on Monday.  She said the storm dumped about a month’s worth of rain over a span of eight hours

Rodríguez said that pumps used to power the town’s drinking water system were carried away in the flood waters.

The vice president said the priority was to locate people still trapped under mud and rocks throughout the town, while military and rescue personnel also searched the riverbanks for survivors.

‘We have lost boys, girls,’ Rodríguez said after touring Las Tejerías. ‘What has happened in the town of Tejerías is a tragedy.’

President Nicolás Maduro said in a tweet that he had designated the area a disaster zone and had declared three days of mourning.

Residents gather in front of a home Monday to recover some of their belongings after floods damaged their homes during a storm in Las Tejerías on Saturday night

A man sits in front of his flooded home in Las Tejerías, a town of 73,000 residents in the central Venezuelan state of Aragua. At least 20,000 homes were damaged, the state’s local Red Cross chapter said Monday

The streets of Las Tejerías, a town of about 73,000 inhabitants, were filled with mud, boulders and tangled tree branches and lined by boarded-up houses, according to Reuters witnesses.

Homes, businesses and other building were  were fully or partially filled with mud and other debris carried by the water. The area is currently without electricity or drinking water. 

Jennifer Galindez, 46, stood in front of her two-story home waiting on news of her missing husband, José Segovia, 55, who suffers from severe diabetes. The flood also killed her one-year-old granddaughter, Estefania Romero.

‘My husband was by the window. I couldn’t help him either and the water took him away,’ said Galindez said.

‘The water swept me away,’ she said, adding that she eventually found refuge on a platform where there was no current. 

Armando Escalona, a 43-year-old taxi driver, said he was attending an evangelical church service with his family when the flood waters caught them by surprise. He said that he remembers hugging his family for a short while until an unknown object hit his head and he lost consciousness. When he woke, he couldn’t find his family.

‘I lost my wife and my five-year-old son. I can’t even talk. We were at the service and everything happened so fast,’ Escalona said.

People remove debris Monday following the flooding of five rivers due to heavy rains in Las Tejerías on Saturday night

A resident carries some of his belongings that were recovered Monday following Saturday flooding in Las Tejerías

Rescue workers search through the rubble of destroyed homes in the central Venezuela town of Las Tejerías on Monday, two days after five small rivers flooded. At least 37 people have been confirmed dead and 52 were still missing as of Monday afternoon

Gustavo Arevalo, a 58-year-old vendor who also volunteers for a civil defense corps, said that the waters began to rise quickly on Saturday, knocking down the town’s telephone antenna.

‘As if dam water had been released,’ said Arevalo, standing in the town’s center, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

After the flood waters receded, he tried to help others ‘recover what was left of their businesses.’

One of the flooded rivers, the El Pato, swept away several houses, shops and a slaughterhouse, according to search and rescue authorities.

Carlos Pérez, deputy minister for the country’s civil protection system, said in a Sunday tweet that a thousand rescuers were looking for victims in the area.

The downpour also caused landslides in three other central states on Sunday morning, Rodríguez said, but claimed no victims.

The deaths bring the total killed in recent weeks to at least 40 due to heavy rains caused by the La Niña weather pattern. Venezuela has faced flooding and landslides.

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