Dozens still missing four days after Venezuela landslide
Published: Oct 14, 2022 01:20 AM
Thousands of rescuers and residents were engaged in an increasingly desperate search through thick mud on Wednesday for 56 people still missing after a devastating landslide swept through a Venezuelan town, killing dozens.

At the last official count, 43 bodies had been found after disaster struck Las Tejerias, a town of some 50,000 people nestled in the mountains about 50 kilometers from the capital Caracas, on Saturday.

President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday the toll from Venezuela's worst natural disaster in decades was likely to reach 100.

Unusually heavy rains caused a major river and several streams to overflow, creating a torrent of mud that washed away cars, parts of homes, businesses and telephone wires, and felled massive trees.

"This is no longer Las Tejerias. It is a disaster," said 60-year-old housewife Maria Romero, who had clung to a tree trunk stuck between two walls to avoid being swept away.

Romero and six family members found temporary shelter at a primary school that survived the deluge. She lost everything and, like hundreds of others, is uncertain about the future.

The search for the missing continued, with emergency personnel using pickaxes, shovels and chainsaws to break through the hardening mud now covering the town.

The military dropped food parcels and water with parachutes from a helicopter in isolated areas, as a mass cleanup was under way to clear trees, rocks, cars, street lamps and electric poles piled up among thick mud layers in the roads.

Water and electricity had been partially restored.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has said that a month's worth of rain fell in the area in just eight hours.

The government declared three days of mourning.

Already on Tuesday, rescuers told AFP it would be difficult to find any survivors.