Venezuela flooding death toll rises after three perish near Maracay

by Jacob Fuller


Flooding in Venezuela’s central Aragua state killed at least three people on Monday, adding to the death toll from weeks of intense rains, authorities said.

A downpour on Monday afternoon caused a dam to overflow, causing a flood that carried rocks, trees, and mud down a main road in El Castano, a suburb of the city of Maracay about 74 miles southwest of the capital Caracas.

Authorities said multiple families had to be rescued, and that a total of around 50 families were impacted.

Heavy rains have killed dozens and left hundreds homeless in the state of Aragua in recent weeks. At least 54 people died in the town of Las Tejerias on Oct. 8 after heavy rains provoked mudslides that buried houses and businesses.

Reuters reported last week that at least 25 people had died and 52 were missing after five small rivers in central Venezuela flooded due to heavy rains, Citizen Security Vice President Remigio Ceballos said Sunday evening in a televised address.

The downpour on Saturday night swept large tree trunks and debris from surrounding mountains into the community of Tejerias, 40 miles southwest of Caracas, damaging businesses and farmland, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said earlier in the day.

Rodriguez said that a month’s worth of rain had fallen in just eight hours and pumps used to power the community’s drinking water system were carried away in the flood waters.

Rodriguez 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,” the vice president said from a flooded street in Tejerias. “What has happened in the town of Tejerias is a tragedy.”

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

The streets of Tejerias, 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.

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 5-year-old son. I can’t even talk. We were at the service and everything happened so fast,” Escalona said.

C0pyright 2022 Thomson/Reueters. Two Reuters reports were combined.