Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing
At least 39 people have been killed in a landslide that buried homes and caused an avalanche in central Venezuela, police and local officials said Saturday.
President Nicolas Maduro’s government said in a statement that at least 14 people were still missing, including one crew member of the military plane that was transporting the victims in a rescue effort.
“The avalanche caused by the landslide has killed 39 people, at least one of them a child,” the government wrote on Twitter. “A few people have been missing, but the search has been extended to the area surrounding the landslide.”
Maduro, in a broadcast to commemorate the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence from Spain in 1811, said Saturday that the tragedy occurred at “the hands of a criminal U.S. imperialism.”
The president called up the country’s top military commander for special help in the rescue effort. The National Armed Forces said on Twitter that the military had received a call from the Defense Ministry about the tragedy and were responding.
The military is sending one of its aircraft, its Bolivarian Air Force C-130 Hercules, to the area to bring relief to the victims, it said.
The disaster struck the northwestern area of the central plateau of Bolivar state where authorities believe several people were killed.
Maduro had said earlier that the landslide occurred in a residential area and that he had asked for assistance from the military.
Venezuela has been in a political and economic crisis that has left more than 2 million people without access to basic food products or medication for the past year.
The government has blamed the U.S. and Colombia for failing to provide assistance to the country and for allegedly “looting” some of the oil revenue that is its main source of income. However, Venezuela’s military and foreign minister have said the oil income is being used to provide for the welfare and basic needs of the Venezuelan people.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and the top commander of the national armed forces, Jose Antonio Dominguez, attend a ceremony to commemorate the national independence of Caracas from Spain in the Government Palace in Caracas December 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins