Caracas, October 19, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Heavy rainfall triggered another landslide in central Venezuela, killing at least three people and adding to the death toll caused by recent flooding across the country.
The latest tragedy took place on Monday in El Castaño, Aragua state, where a downpour caused El Palmarito stream to overflow resulting in a large landslide from the surrounding mountains. Footage showed strong currents of water and mud blocking the main road to access the urban neighborhood and sweeping away vehicles, trees, and rocks. More than 50 houses were damaged or destroyed, some completely buried under mud.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro visited the affected area immediately after the disaster to supervise the rescue operations and relief efforts. “We arrived with 300 officers from the Venezuelan Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) and Civil Protection as well as heavy machinery to start the cleanup right away and help our people.”
Maduro said that rescue teams would remain deployed in El Castaño and in neighboring areas for as long as necessary in case of more rainfall and flooding. Electricity has been restored to 60 percent to aid reconstruction works and first responders’ labor.
The Venezuelan mandatary explained that the landslide in El Castaño —a suburb of the city of Maracay located some 80 kilometers west of Caracas— was caused by tropical wave number 44 which follows weeks of historic precipitation levels across the country.
President Maduro emphasized that recent catastrophes result from “climate change” as “capitalism continues to destroy the planet.” He recalled that revolutionary leaders Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro repeatedly warned about capitalism’s consequences for the environment and urged the world to change the system.
Toneladas de piedra y lodo abrieron su paso en la parte alta de el Castaño, dejando viviendas aisladas y en riesgo, al momento fuerzas de Protección Civil y Bomberos dirigidos por la Gobernación de Estado Aragua Gobernadora Karina Carpio y el Alcalde del Mun. Girardot Alc Morales pic.twitter.com/z8u3Pv7C0N
— @FuerzaDinamica Remigio Ceballos Ichaso (@CeballosIchaso1) October 18, 2022
The destruction in El Castaño occurred only a week after several landslides swept away the neighboring town of Las Tejerías, leaving over 50 people dead and another 50 missing. The El Pato River and other streams overflowed after massive rainfall, sweeping away houses and businesses.
“My condolences to the families. We still have a number of people missing and we continue to search,” Maduro said from Las Tejerías on Monday, where he spoke to people affected and oversaw the relief efforts. He lamented that casualties would likely reach 100.
Brigades of military and civil protection officers, firefighters, health professionals, and volunteers have been carrying out nonstop reconstruction and humanitarian work in Las Tejerías. According to authorities, there are between 150 and 200 provisional medical attention centers and a mobile surgical hospital to care for the victims as well as six canteens that provide over 2,000 daily meals.
Military and civilian teams have also remained deployed to repair schools in order to restart classes this week. Meanwhile, tons of donations continue to arrive in Las Tejerías from people, grassroots organizations and government institutions across the country.
On October 14, a United Nations delegation visited the small town with Vice President Delcy Rodríguez to coordinate international help and cooperation. “We are available to immediately mobilize everything we have and place it at the disposal of the [Venezuelan] authorities,” Unicef representative in Venezuela Abubacar Sultan told reporters.
For his part, President Maduro welcomed “the spirit of solidarity” and announced a special economic fund for Las Tejerías “to finance the integral recovery directly and without intermediaries.”
Maduro likewise informed that 450 apartments are currently in construction and will be delivered to affected families in three months. He also instructed local authorities and high-ranking government officials to locate “safe areas” to build 500 additional houses.
“Houses in unsafe areas are going to be eliminated, to prevent this [tragedy] from happening again,” he said. Maduro went on to stress that the urban reconstruction of Las Tejerías will respond to “scientific planning.”
For his part, Venezuela’s Vice-President of Planning Ricardo Menéndez explained there are historical reasons behind the landslides in Aragua state that date back to the Spanish colonization.
“They [the Spanish] exterminated the indigenous peoples and settled there to grow sugar cane and other crops. They brought cheap labor (slaves) to cultivate the land and made them live in the rivers’ ‘fan zones.’ Poor communities settled and grew there, forming what is today Las Tejerías,” said Menéndez.
The official added that the unsuitable terrain for houses on the Venezuelan coasts has small basins with short watercourses that can overflow in short periods with heavy rainfall, triggering landslides.
Before the landslides in Las Tejerías and El Castaño, previous floodings had left 18 dead in western regions of Venezuela. On Monday, La Pedregosa sector in Mérida state registered heavy rains that collapsed roads and damaged houses. So far, no casualties have been reported.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.