LWR helps Venezuelans who are helping mudslide survivors

Baltimore, Dec. 22, 1999 -- In the aftermath of the flash floods and mudslides in northern Venezuela, Lutheran World Relief is helping provide emergency supplies for three shelters served by the country's small Lutheran Church. An initial $5,000 grant will help with meals and bedding for some of the 3,000 homeless families now gathered at a parish in Caracas and for 112 people who have taken refuge in a church and a hospital in the disaster zone of La Guaira.
"We need food, water, medicine and blankets," Pastor Juan Willig told LWR today. All the items are readily available for purchase in the country.

"Forty thousand homes have been completely flattened and 133,000 people are homeless," Willig said. "There is lots to do and lots of help from people here in Venezuela." In an earlier message to LWR he asked: "Pray for those who struggle. Pray for the orphans. Pray for all who suffer." Further support will be allocated as shelter and recovery efforts develop. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Division for Global Mission has already designated $25,000 to LWR for the Venezuela emergency.

Days of torrential rains that triggered the floods and landslides last weekend have now ended. While a military air-sea rescue operation continues along the north coast, the focus now is shifting from saving lives to evacuation and shelter for the displaced. As in last year's Hurricane Mitch in Central America, this natural disaster has a manmade edge. Those hardest hit are poor people who had built homes in steep places. Casualty estimates so far have varied widely, ranging from 1,000 people killed, up to 20,000 or more.