Rescue teams were still searching Monday, October 10 for 56 people missing in a mudslide that killed at least 36 people in Las Tejerias, a small town in north-central Venezuela.

This country has been facing exceptional rainfall since September.

The torrential rains in recent days have caused the overflow of streams and landslides in Las Tejerias (50,000 inhabitants), located on the mountainside.

"Unfortunately, we have 36 people dead at the moment and 56 people missing," Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos announced in the middle of the afternoon on Twitter.

The previous death toll was 52. "We have a deployment of over 3,000 troops," he added.

Previous announcements reported 1,200 rescue workers deployed.

Las Tejerias is overrun with mud and countless debris.

“We are still looking,” said a rescuer.

Firefighters are using chainsaws to clear their way through the trees carried in the city.

Many houses and businesses were destroyed by the mudslide which swept away everything in its path: trees, cars, house walls, etc.

President Nicolas Maduro, who declared three days of mourning on Sunday, visited the area on Monday.

"We take with us the pain, the clamor, the despair, the tears of the people but they must know that Tejerias will rise like the phoenix, Tejerias will be reborn", launched the president, who promised to rebuild "each and everyone" of the homes and businesses destroyed.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said 317 homes were "completely destroyed" and 757 "affected" by the landslide.

"Climate change"

Remigio Ceballos had spoken the day before of "a record amount of precipitation" falling on the city, assuring that the average volume of water in a month had fallen in one day.

"These heavy rains have saturated the ground," added the minister, attributing them to "climate change" and the passage of Hurricane Julia in northern Venezuela, which completely dissipated Monday at 9 p.m. GMT above the Guatemala.

In recent weeks, this atypical rainy season and these downpours that hit Venezuela had already caused the death of thirteen people in other regions of the country.

Several shelters for affected families have been set up in Maracay, capital of the state of Aragua where Las Tejerias is located.

In Caracas and elsewhere, donation collection points have been set up: "I brought drinking water, powdered milk, sweets for the children and some clothes for the boys", explains Karla Cuervo, 39 year-old, stay-at-home mother, dropping off a package at the "Angeles de la Autopista" (Angels of the Highway) collection center in Caracas.

"I hope there will be more donations. Because there are people who have nothing left, nothing left..."

In addition to the Las Tejerias disaster, floods and landslides occurred in several other places in the country during the weekend, notably in the state of Zulia, oil cradle of Venezuela, or in Choroni on the Caribbean coast.

With AFP

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