Mérida, 11th November 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – With refugee shelters, emergency funds and thousands of state workers deployed, the Venezuelan government launched a national effort to attend to the needs of Venezuelans affected by heavy rains and flooding this week, as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cancelled international engagements to help coordinate the relief effort.
Following exceptionally heavy rains throughout the country between Tuesday and Thursday eight people have been confirmed dead and 4,812 families directly affected. Further, 4,800 houses have been flooded and 1,096 collapsed, stated Minister of Justice and Interior Relations Tareck El Aissami in a public announcement on Friday.
On Thursday the government declared a state of emergency for 90 days in the Capital District, the state of Miranda, Zulia state in the west of Venezuela, and the Andean states Merida, Tachira and Trujillo. Zulia is the worst affected, with 828 collapsed homes.
Infrastructure and communications have also been hit by the rains, with classes cancelled this week in affected areas, damage to the barriers of the river Guaire in Capital District and Miranda, and the main route between El Vigia airport and the city of Merida blocked due to landslides.
The Venezuelan government has launched a national effort in response to the situation, including opening new refugee centres, with 918 now available throughout the country. Meanwhile thousands of state workers have been deployed nationally to attend to refugees and repair the damage, with 10,000 working in Capital District and Miranda alone.
“The Bolivarian Government is here, we have seen…how all the necessary forces have been deployed to attend contingencies in every part of the country,” stated El Aissami.
For his part, President Chavez cancelled his planned diplomatic visits to Argentina and Brazil this weekend to help organise the government response. “I can go and visit any time. We are dedicated to this,” he explained on Friday. He also confirmed that 600 houses were imminently due to be handed over to refugees from the flooding, and 68 million bolivars (US $15.8 million) of emergency funds had also been approved for the administration of disaster relief.
Classes are due back at school on Monday, and one of the routes to El Vigia airport has already re-opened.
Also, during bilateral meetings this week in Moscow, Russia committed to aid Venezuela install a state of the art monitoring system to assist in the detection of natural disasters and taking of preventative measures.
Venezuela was struck by the worst rains in 40 years last November and December, leaving 35 dead and 130,000 refugees in government shelters. As a result, the Chavez administration has made the housing of refugees a priority within the framework of the mass house building program, the Great Housing Mission, launched April this year.
According to Correo del Orinoco, by the end of November over 100,000 houses had been built under the program and provided to refugees from last years’ flooding.