Venezuela

Venezuela floods leave huge death toll: No Christmas break for relief workers

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While Australians rush through their last-minute Christmas shopping and then prepare for the holiday break, relief workers in Venezuela are assessing the world's latest natural disaster.
The devastating floods and mudslides in northern Venezuela have killed tens of thousands of people and the death toll could rise to more than 50,000. Exact counts are not possible as many bodies lie under the mudslides that reached up to two stories in height in some areas. Along the coastal areas as many as 200,000 are homeless.

World Vision Australia's relief manager Tom Sizer says whatever the exact figure, this will be the worst natural disaster in Venezuela this century and the death toll is likely to exceed that of Hurricane Mitch which hit Central America last year.

Many of the dead were poorer people who lived in shanties on the side of hills that gave way in the 10 days of torrential rains and flash floods, Mr. Sizer said.

World Vision is responding to the floods disaster through the Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA), its partner agency in Venezuela. ADRA currently reports that food and medicine are high on the list of needs.

World Vision relief experts are expected to reach the disaster area within the next few hours to begin the massive task of further assessing the needs of the victims of the devastation.

World Vision Australia is accepting donations to fund the relief operation which will initially centre on providing shelter, food and medical supplies to prevent the outbreak of disease in the temporary camps for the homeless.

International aid is arriving in Venezuela from Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, the USA and several other countries as the world responds to the victims' great need.

=A9 1999 World Vision Australia