At least 16 people have died in the western Venezuelan state of Merida following intense rains that have triggered mudslides and caused rivers to overflow.
State governor Ramon Guevara told Reuters on Wednesday that more than 1,200 houses had been destroyed and 17 people remained missing as well, as rescue workers continue to scour the wreckage.
“Let’s try not to make this political or ideological,” Guevara, a member of the Democratic Action opposition party, said. “Let’s all look for solutions to the problem.”
Images shared on social media showed cars being swept down streets, buildings and businesses filled with mud, and mudslides that left boulders strewn across roads.
No power, phone service in some areas
Several towns in the affected area including Tovar, Bailadores, Zea and Santa Cruz de Mora are without electricity or phone service as floodwaters damaged transformers, Guevara said.
He said that neither the state nor municipal governments have the resources to help the affected areas, but noted he had charged infrastructure specialists to work with the capital of Caracas to repair buildings and roads.
In a live broadcast Tuesday evening Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami had guaranteed fuel for the rescue efforts.
“We remain in a state of emergency on the instructions of our commander-in-chief Nicolas Maduro Moros,” Remigio Ceballos, minister of the interior, said on state television Wednesday.
More than 50,000 affected
He said that at least 54,543 people in 87 municipalities of the country had been affected. According to Ceballos, the states remaining in a state of emergency were Merida, Tachira, Zulia, Apure, Amazonas, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Monagas and Aragua.
So far 80 firefighters and 60 civil protection officials from Merida have been deployed for emergency operations in addition to members of the armed forces stationed in the area.
Guevara instructed officials to organize a humanitarian aid collection post in Merida’s city centre where they are receiving contributions of water, non-perishable food, clothing and blankets. Guevara also deployed health workers to the hardest hit areas.
The area in question is an agricultural zone that provides food to other parts of the country.