Venezuela - Floods Fact Sheet #11, Fiscal Year (FY) 2000

Situation Report
Originally published
Overview of Situation

Numbers Affected:

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the death toll is now estimated at 30,000. OCHA also reports that some 600,000 persons have been affected by the floods and ensuing mudslides.

As of January 14, the Venezuelan Civil Defense reports that there are approximately 114,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in 326 temporary shelters throughout the country. According to the Venezuelan Red Cross, in Caracas alone, 10,000 people remain in shelters.

Adverse weather conditions continued throughout January and caused additional damage to various states. In Caracas, minor landslides affected the area of Gramoven and Caricuao. In the state of Tachira, 2,600 persons had to be evacuated. There are no reports of casualties from the latest rains.


The USAID/BHR/OFDA Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) identified water and shelter as the most immediate disaster needs. In the weeks following the floods, tremendous progress was made in the delivery of water as a result of the coordinated efforts of the national government, local organizations, the private sector, donors, and various relief organizations. Hidroven, the state owned water supply company, announced that the eastern part of Vargas (one of the most damaged states) will receive its water supply from tanker trucks throughout 2000.


The Venezuelan Civil Defense reports that at least 64,700 houses were damaged and more than 23,200 were destroyed.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), since the rains began in December, nine hospitals and 251 ambulatory health centers were affected to varying degrees in the states of Vargas, Miranda, Distrito Federal, Falcon, and Yaracuy.

The Ministry of Education reports that 23 school districts were declared to be in states of emergency.

Road damage throughout the coastal states of Venezuela was significant. For example, the road connecting San Antonio, Venezuela with Cucuta, Colombia was damaged in various segments due to flooding and landslides. Damaged highways and secondary roads are currently being reconstructed by local construction companies.

USG Response


The USAID/BHR/OFDA DART arrived in Venezuela on December 18, 1999 to coordinate relief activities with the U.S. Embassy and conduct damage and needs assessments. The last DART member departed Venezuela on January 16. However, a disaster response specialist from USAID/BHR/OFDA has returned to Venezuela to review the status of ongoing relief efforts and coordinate activities with the U.S. Embassy, the Government of Venezuela (GOV), and other humanitarian organizations.

The USAID/BHR/OFDA DART assisted the Ministry of Environment and local experts in managing the critical hazardous material (HAZMAT) situation at the port of La Guaira. Specifically, USAID/BHR/OFDA fielded a HAZMAT team of experts to assist the GOV to prevent further contamination, assess environmental and health impacts, and identify private sector contractors for cleaning up the hazardous material. In addition, USAID/BHR/OFDA provided the following personal equipment for use by local HAZMAT experts: 25 pairs of chemical protection gloves and boots; 25 full-face emergency escape masks (with 5-10 minute oxygen supply); 25 Tyvek protection suits; one portable HAZMAT decontamination shower unit; and five self-contained breathing apparatus units (with oxygen cylinders).

The USAID/BHR/OFDA DART assisted Hidroven and other organizations to ensure water needs were met in the affected areas. On January 11, USAID/BHR/OFDA approved $500,000 in funding to the U.S. Embassy for the purchase, transport, and installation of water tanks, portable water-testing kits, five-gallon water containers and an electric transformer, as well as rental of water and vacuum trucks. These supplies, consigned to Hidroven, will benefit approximately 200,000 persons in the states of Vargas and Miranda.

A USAID/BHR/OFDA water engineer trained local personnel in the use of nine USAID/BHR/OFDA-funded water purification units donated to Hidroven.

USAID/BHR/OFDA provided $15,000 to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas to purchase Venezuelan equine encephalitis vaccine. The Embassy will donate the veterinary vaccines to the Servicio Autonomo de Sanidad Agropecuaria, the GOV agency charged with the health of livestock.

The USAID/BHR/OFDA-funded team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) traveled to Venezuela to undertake assessments of the affected areas, and to coordinate with the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to determine appropriate USGS technical assistance towards the Ministry's effort to respond to the disaster and to evaluate and document the magnitude and location of the effects of flash floods and landslides.

USAID/BHR/OFDA continues to monitor the situation in Venezuela and is prepared to respond additionally if deemed appropriate.

U.S. Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD continues to assist in relief operations by transporting relief supplies and medical teams throughout the affected region. DOD's Joint Task Force (JTF) currently consists of 167 personnel.

DOD continues to operate reverse osmosis water purification units (ROWPU's) in the states of Miranda and Vargas.

The JTF continues to monitor the HAZMAT situation at La Guiara.

International Response

PAHO is operating a coordination center for water and health issues, providing updated information on these sectors to relevant organizations and support for epidemiological surveillance and mental health.

A Coordination Committee [including national and international Red Cross representatives, the Venezuelan Civil Defense, the Venezuelan Ministry of Social Development, The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), PAHO, and the Scouts Organization] was established to address the psycho-social recovery needs of children.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has a team of 21 delegates in Venezuela, supporting the Venezuelan Red Cross in logistics, finance, relief, health, water and sanitation, telecommunications, reporting, and family tracing activities.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has sent supplies to meet the reproductive needs of 150,000 women for three months. These supplies include those necessary to perform safe delivery at homes or health centers and those required for family planning.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is conducting an evaluation of the food and agricultural situation and assessing damages/rehabilitation needs in the agricultural sector.

Local Response

The National Emergency Committee is now focusing on rehabilitation and reconstruction issues.

The Venezuelan Civil Defense and the Venezuelan Red Cross are completing a census of shelters. Information regarding shelters and victims in shelters is available online at

A website established by the National Emergency Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United Nations is now operational and may be provisionally accessed through

The GOV is identifying locations for construction of new housing developments that would be designated for IDPs. Because many of the identified sites are in provinces different from those originally home to the IDPS, many families have expressed unwillingness to move.

Public Donations Information

In the interest of effective coordination of public response, USAID encourages the public to contact directly those private voluntary organizations (PVOs) currently working in the region in order to provide monetary donations or to call the USAID hotline at 1-800-872-4373 during normal business hours. A list of the PVOs may be obtained from the USAID web site at 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

Those interested in providing specific technical relief services or commodities should contact Volunteers in Technical Assistance's (VITA's) Disaster Information Center for information and guidelines at 703-276-1914.

USAID will not deviate from standard Denton Program procedures for transporting privately donated relief supplies. USAID will prioritize delivery of essential relief commodities.

For more information on the Denton Program, please refer to the USAID website at For additional information about the relief effort in Venezuela, please refer to the Natural Disasters section of ReliefWeb at


Two weeks of unrelenting rain led to flash flooding in northern Venezuela during December. Rainfall accumulation at Maiquetia airport for the first two weeks of December was well above average at 300 mm. An additional 900 mm of rainfall was recorded on December 14-16.

On December 16, the Government of Venezuela declared a State of Emergency for eight states (Zulia, Falcon, Yaracuy, Nueva Esparta, Carabobo, Tachira, Vargas, and Miranda) and the Federal District of Caracas. The states of Miranda and Vargas were particularly hard hit.

Also on December 16, U.S. Ambassador John Francis Maisto declared a flood disaster in Venezuela, thereby enabling the provision of USG humanitarian assistance.

USAID/BHR/OFDA dispatched a DART on December 18 to help coordinate response activities and to perform damage and needs assessments.

Total U.S. Government Funding to Date

Disaster Assistance Authority to the U.S. Embassy for purchase of relief supplies, shelter materials, and food. These funds were provided to the Venezuelan Red Cross and the Catholic-Episcopal Conference.
Local purchase of medical supplies including 30,000 tetanus vaccines and 40,000 syringes and food.
DART support costs
Purchase and transport of 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, 5,600 five-gallon water containers, 15,000 wool blankets, ten 3,000-gallon water bladders, and 1,500 body bags. Airlifts arrived December 19 and 20.
Purchase and transport of 80 rolls of plastic sheeting, 1,600 five-gallon water containers, 1,600 wool blankets, 6,000 hygiene kits, and medical kits. Airlift arrived on December 23.
Funding in support of PAHO's appeal
Two water/sanitation engineers (technical support)
Local purchase of Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis vaccine
Purchase, transport of, and technical support for three water purification units
Purchase and shipping of 25 pairs of chemical protection gloves; 25 pairs of chemical protection boots; 25 full-face emergency escape masks (with 5-10 minute oxygen supply); 25 Tyvek protection suits; one portable HAZMAT decontamination shower unit; and five self-contained breathing apparatus units.
Purchase, transport, and installation of 65 (10,000-liter) water tanks, 16 portable water testing kits, 20,000 five-gallon water containers and rental of water tanker trucks.
Support for U.S. hazardous materials team
Purchase, transport of, and technical support for six additional water purification units
Funding in support of UNICEF's appeal
Total USAID funding to date**
Total DOD funding to date*** (estimated)
Total USG funding to date

* Estimated cost to date.
** USAID/BHR/OFDA is authorized to spend $3 million in response to the Venezuelan floods.
*** This funding is from within the $20 million authorized by President Clinton on December 24 in support of DOD humanitarian operations in Venezuela