Venezuela

Tracing flood victims in Venezuela

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On the 16 December, following Venezuela's devastating floods and mudslides, tracing requests from anxious relatives begun arriving all over the world. A free telephone line was quickly set up, manned around the clock by some 30 Venezuelan Red Cross volunteers. To date, 6,000 tracing cases have been registered by the organisation. Two Colombian Red Cross tracing experts have been put at the disposal of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who in coordination with the Venezuelan Red Cross, has established a training programme for other volunteers.
Sisters Maritza and Mery Abreu used to live on the hills surrounding La Guaira, one the towns worst hit by the floods, but their homes were washed away and finally buried under metres of mud during the catastrophe.

"It's like a miracle we are here. None of our family members died, but many of our neighbours perished" says Maritza in a broken voice.

A few days after the disaster, Maritza and Mery's 75-year-old mother, who lives in Caracas, contacted the Venezuelan Red Cross through the free hotline set up by the organisation. She was desperate to find out what had happened to her daughters. After four days checking all the lists in the collective centres around La Guaria where the homeless were being cared for, the Red Cross team managed to find the women.

"They immediately begged for our assistance to travel to Caracas and visit their mother whom they hadn't seen for some time," says Angela Maria Escobar, the International Federation's tracing delegate.

So far, 558 tracing requests have been successfully concluded. But the case load remains huge.

=A91997 International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies