Overview of Current Situation
The Government of Venezuela (GOV) reported that evacuation of the department of Vargas continues in an air-and-sea military rescue operation involving 13,000 troops, 5,000 volunteers, approximately 40 helicopters and 16 warships.
According to Venezuela's Civil Defense National Director Angel Rangel, the death toll could reach 30,000 people; estimates vary as many bodies remain buried under the mud.
Basic services such as electricity, telephone and water have been re-established in some areas. The Caracas water supply is reported to be normal.
The two international airports serving Caracas, Maiquetia and Simon Bolivar, remain closed to commercial flights. The Port of La Guaira is expected to reopen in three to four weeks. Roads remain closed between Caracas and La Guaira, except to humanitarian traffic.
The (GOV) focus is moving from the emergency phase of saving lives to the secondary phase of evacuating victims and coordinating camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The USAID/DART performed preliminary needs assessments December 21 and will make recommendations for relief assistance this week.
USAID will fund $200,000 towards an appeal from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to assist in the recovery of the Venezuelan health sector.
USAID is transporting 6,000 hygiene kits, 1,600 wool blankets, 1,600 five-gallon water containers, 80 rolls of plastic sheeting (sufficient to shelter 4,000 people), and medical supply kits to Venezuela to assist flood victims. This airlift is scheduled to arrive in Caracas with supplies on/about 1930 hours on December 22. Total cost of commodities and transport for this airlift is approximately $144,000.
Department of Defense (DoD)
Two additional Department of Defense (DoD) helicopters will arrive December 23 to supplement the efforts of the eight DoD helicopters currently in country.
Two C-130s arrived December 21 with a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), 727 hygiene kits, blankets, chlorine and iodine tablets, and other supplies.
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is working with Venezuelan authorities to mobilize emergency aid and strengthen health sector coordination. PAHO activated the Humanitarian Supply Management System (SUMA) to classify, sort, inventory and prioritize incoming supplies; three SUMA experts are en route to Venezuela.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is focusing its response on the following: medical supplies, first aid and prevention of outbreaks of disease; basic sanitation and hygiene education; and water purification tablets and water tanks to hold fresh water. It will also focus on getting children back to school quickly, providing school supplies and psycho-social rehabilitation for traumatized children. In addition, it will assist in relocating 2,000 indigenous Amerindian families in the state of Zulia.
The World Food Program (WFP) will begin delivering food aid this week to 20,000 of the most vulnerable victims as part of a $200,000 emergency operations plan. WFP will distribute ready-to-eat food, such as high-protein biscuits, because most people do not have access to cooking facilities,
The Inter-American Development Bank provided $50,000 for health, transportation, and other needs, and will redirect $200 million in previously approved loans for use in emergency road building, education, health, and agriculture.
The Pan American Development Fund has mobilized some $75,000 in donations and materials such as tents, blankets and water purification tablets. The Organization of American States gave $20,000.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that as of December 21, donors have contributed a total of $8,207,613 NOT including in-kind contributions and services.
GOV military and civil defense personnel continue rescue operations. Several shelters in public and private facilities have been opened in Caracas and interior cities.
The GOV continues to assess the damages and will make recommendations and requests for international assistance.
The Civil Defense has established a local 1-800 number (1-800-votar) to coordinate location of missing persons, centralize information on needs assessments, and to facilitate national and international aid.
Department of Defense: $2,025,376
Total USG Funding to Date: $3,183,538
Two weeks of unrelenting rain 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) and the Federal District of Caracas.
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. According to U.S. Embassy reports, cleanup operations have begun in many areas within the Caracas metropolitan area, although some main avenues remain covered in mud.
Maiquetia airport in Caracas continues to serve as the GOV relief headquarters, containing a triage center and a shuttle stop for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that are being relocated to the interior and to Caracas. More than 10,000 evacuees are sheltered there.
The Venezuelan press reports that the GOV's Minister of Science and Technology has established five commissions comprised of scientific and technological experts to assess the structural, geological, and hydrological situations in the affected zones.
On December 16, 1999, U.S. Ambassador to Venezeula John Francis Maisto declared a disaster for flooding. USAID/OFDA responded by providing an initial $25,000 to 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. USAID/OFDA has provided an additional $350,000 in funding to the U.S. Embassy is Caracas since that time to support food relief efforts.
Public Donations Information
USAID Hotline: 1800-872-4373
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 call the USAID hotline at 1800-872-4373 between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. 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. Those interested in providing specific technical relief services or commodities should contact Volunteers in Technical Assistance's (VITA) Disaster Information Center for information and guidelines (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 www.info.usaid.gov/hum_response/pvc/denton.
For additional information, please access the Natural Disasters section of ReliefWeb at wwwnotes.reliefweb.int.