Venezuela + 2 more

Torrential rains and flooding displace thousands in Venezuela, Colombia and Guyana

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News and Press Release
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February 17, 2005, Baltimore, MD - Thousands of people are stranded and in need of shelter after heavy rains provoked violent landslides and massive flooding in the low-lying coastal areas of Venezuela, Guyana and Colombia. Nearly 110,000 people are displaced from their homes, part of an estimated 250,000 who have been directly affected by the flooding in these three countries. There are 50 known dead as rescue workers search for the missing and try to reach stranded communities. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) announced an immediate provision of $165,000 to help local relief efforts purchase food rations, hygiene packets, potable water, and materials for shelter.
"Our assessment with local partners has highlighted the immediate needs of the people in these areas, including shelter, food, and primary health to prevent disease, and we have acted quickly to help" said Jed Hoffman, Regional Director for the Latin American and Caribbean regions. "CRS has also started planning with our local partners and the affected communities to identify ways that we can help them as they work to recover and rehabilitate their villages and personal lives in the coming weeks and months."

Overflowing rivers and flooding in coastal northeast Colombia have killed 38 and 40 are missing. Approximately 30,000 people have been evacuated in the departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, and also in parts of Tolima and Huila departments. Rivers have gone over their banks in several parts of Santander, rescue workers have evacuated 65 neighborhoods at risk for landslides and increased flooding, and damage to 17 roads in this area hinders access. The Tachira River separating Colombia and Venezuela also flooded in C=FAcuta, capital of the Norte de Santander department pulling houses into the river and inundating the entire city market. Fearing its collapse, border authorities suspended travel over the Simon Bolivar Bridge that links Colombia and Venezuela. CRS has provided $110,000 to local partner Caritas Columbia to purchase and distribute food, water, bedding, and materials for temporary shelter.

In Guyana, 66,000 people have been displaced from their homes by floodwaters on the eastern coast where most of the country's 400,000 inhabitants live. High water has affected a total of 220,000 and the standing high water has destroyed drainage, sewerage, and drinking water systems for 128,000. Fifteen deaths have been attributed to the floods since mid-January and the danger of flood-related illnesses is growing.

CRS, local Church health workers, and government medical officials are working to prevent illnesses including leptospirosis, pneumonia, dengue fever and tuberculosis. CRS arranged for a team of five U.S. medical volunteers from the Portland-based Northwest Medical Teams to work with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Guyana providing emergency room and outpatient care, and a mobile clinic team to stranded communities.

An initial disbursement of $50,000 in CRS support went to the Archdiocese and is also helping St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to distribute 4,000 food rations to HIV positive individuals. CRS is also working with other non-governmental and governmental agencies to build and install 400 latrines to replace washed out pit latrines. CRS private funds were complemented with an additional $13,000 donation from the Irish Catholic development agency TROCAIRE. CRS has also developed a a decontamination project to rehabilitate 10,000 homes in the Diocese of Georgetown by 30 clean-up teams composed of paid and volunteers workers over a period of three months.

High water and violent mudslides in Venezuela destroyed 4,000 homes and stranded over 5,000 people in the coastal states of Aragua, Carabobo, Miranda, Vargas, Federal District and Falcón y Yaracuy. The Vargas area is the hardest hit and where most of the government emergency effort has been focused in order to clear roads for rescue efforts. CRS is providing local partner Caritas Venezuela with an initial $10,000 grant to purchase and distribute emergency provisions.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.

Media Contact:

Erika A. Williams
(410) 951-7281
ewilliams@catholicrelief.org

To contribute to CRS, send donations to:

Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090
Memo line: LACRO Severe Weather Fund
1-877-HELPCRS

*If you would like to donate to a particular emergency, please earmark your donation on the memo line of your check to Guyana Emergency or Venezuela Emergency.