Venezuela Situation Update 22/12/99

Mudslides and flash flooding caused by torrential rains have killed thousands along Venezuela's Caribbean coast, and government officials are calling the disaster the most severe ever in the country's history.The government has declared that at least 10,000 have died, and that the final death toll could be more than 20,000, Reuters reported, surpassing the death toll from last year's Hurricane Mitch in Central America, in which more than 9,000 were killed. But Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel told reporters today that any figure right now given "is more in the realm of speculation than reality," according to Reuters. A precise death toll may never be known.
The death toll has jumped sharply since last week, when initial reports said the number of those who had perished was only in the hundreds. At least 1,500 bodies have been recovered, Rangel said. At least 150,000 were made homeless, the BBC reported -most of them residents of shantytowns swept away by the unseasonably heavy coastal rains that lasted 10 days.

The Venezuelan government has appealed for international assistance and at least 25 countries have pledged help.

Since AFSC is not operational in Venezuela, we are directing support to local partners and contacts. Our Andean Quaker International Affairs Co-Representatives, (based in Quito, Ecuador), have been in touch with local efforts and will direct funds from AFSC to the Latin America Council of Churches and their local affiliates. AFSC also sent a grant of $2,000 from the Crisis Fund to help these groups respond to the disaster.