Two weeks of unrelenting rain has led to flash flooding in northern Venezuela and on December 16, the Government of Venezuela (GOV) declared a State of Emergency for seven states (Zulia, Falcon, Yaracuy, Nueva Esparta, Carabobo, Tachira, and Miranda), the department of Vargas and the Federal District of Caracas.
As of December 19, the GOV has confirmed at least 5,000 dead, though unofficial estimates (based on missing persons) range up to 7,000. The Civil Defense figures state that 94,000 people have been left homeless and an additional 130,000 have been temporarily evacuated.
The state of Vargas is considered the hardest-hit. The Caracas-La Guaira highway is closed to all but humanitarian vehicles, and the coastal roads are almost completely destroyed. Venezuelan Navy ships are bringing 800 tons of drinking water to coastal victims and a naval transport is housing 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The U. S. Embassy reports that Maiquetia airport is serving as the GOV relief headquarters, containing a triage center and a shuttle stop for IDPs that are being relocated to the interior and to Caracas. More than 10,000 evacuees are sheltered there.
The GOV reports that many roads and bridges are damaged or destroyed, and flooding and landslides currently isolate many communities. In addition, national and international airports serving Caracas are closed to commercial flights.
The U.S. Embassy reports that within the Caracas metropolitan area, cleanup operations have begun in many areas, although some main avenues remain covered in mud.
USAID/OFDA provided $25,000 through the U.S. Embassy to be used by the Venezuelan Red Cross and Catholic-Episcopal Conference for local purchase of relief supplies, construction material, and food.
A five-person USAID/OFDA Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) team arrived in Venezuela on December 19 to coordinate USG relief activities and conduct damage and needs assessment.
On December 19, USAID/OFDA provided $200,000 for the local purchase of relief supplies, including 30,000 tetanus toxoid vaccines and 40,000 syringes.
Also on December 19, USAID/OFDA provided $150,000 to support the operations of the USAID/DART.
USAID/OFDA dispatched two airlifts of relief supplies that arrived in Caracas on December 19 and 20. These flights contained 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, 15,000 wool blankets, 3,600 (5 gallon) water containers, 3,000 (10 gallon) water bladders, and 1,500 body bags.
Other USG Assistance
DOD has provided three helicopters and one C-130 aircraft and has an assessment team assisting local search and rescue operations.
Eight U.S. Air Force helicopters are participating in rescue operations and two more will arrive on December 21.
There are currently 100 U.S. military personnel assisting in the search and rescue operations.
A UN Disaster Management Team has been activated and a local UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) has been mobilized to assist the Venezuelan UN Resident Coordinator.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has mobilized an emergency team comprised of epidemiologists, health service experts, and sanitary engineers and has released an immediate appeal for donor assistance.
Various countries, including Australia, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Japan, Peru, and Switzerland will provide or have already provided technical personnel, specialists, medicine, food, and financial resources.
International organizations, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Bank, and the United Nations have also contributed or will contribute resources to the relief effort.
The GOV is conducting a massive air and sea military rescue operation involving 12,000 troops using Venezuelan Navy ships and 25 helicopters to bring relief packages to stranded victims and to rescue people trapped along the flooded coast.
Public Donations Information
In the interest of effective coordination of public response, we encourage monetary donations to appropriate organizations. USAID encourages the public to contact directly those private voluntary organizations (PVOs) currently working in the region to provide monetary donations. A list of the PVOs may be obtained from the USAID web site at www.info.usaid.gov. The list is composed of PVOs that are registered with USAID and/or listed by InterAction, a coalition of voluntary humanitarian and development organizations that work overseas; InterAction can be contacted at 1-202-667-8227 x106, or via the Internet at www.interaction.org.
For additional information, please access the Natural Disasters section of ReliefWeb at wwwnotes.reliefweb.int.
USAID Financial Support:
Disaster Assistance Authority used to
meet immediate disaster related needs: $25,000
USAID/DART support costs: $150,000
Purchase of immediate relief supplies including 30,000 units of tetanus toxoid, 40,000 syringes, and 50 megaphones for crowd control: $200,000
Purchase and transport of plastic sheeting, water containers, blankets, water bladders, and body bags: $439,604
Total USAID/OFDA Assistance to date: $814,604