Flooding expected to continue in Venezuela

Published: 12 August 2002 0:00 CET

Alejandro Castañeda in Apure state, Venezuela

"I'm 53 years old and I have never seen a disaster on this scale," says Luis Gonzalez, a Red Cross volunteer in Guadalito, in the south-western Venezuelan state of Apure. "Suddenly, last Sunday afternoon the town became completely chaotic. People were running around not knowing where to go or what to do; the last time this town saw a flood was in 1942."

Four people died in Guadualito in the most recent floods and the flooding has affected more people than previously thought – an estimated 40,000 inhabitants in Apure alone are trying to cope with the destruction. According to the Red Cross, water levels have risen by 1.5 metres in Apure since the beginning of August.

The Venezuelan Red Cross has been working around the clock since the flooding began in June, working in coordination with the government and the American and Colombian Red Cross.

" My feeling is that from the beginning, aid has been reaching the most vulnerable in the community," says Luis Gregorio Mora a Red Cross volunteer in Guadalito. "It's a hard task because the food and medicines do not cover all the families we would have liked to assist. Now, as we face the task of rebuilding, we are going to the most isolated areas to talk with families to identify their needs." Since flooding began, much of the aid to isolated and cut off areas has been distributed by canoas curiare (dug out canoes).

In Apure, some 10,000 people were evacuated to neighbouring municipalities and are now staying with family, neighbours or in temporary shelters. A total of 8,338 people are being housed in shelters. Some families are now trying to return to their homes, or what remains of them.

"At the moment our challenge is to obtain the resources to assist families that have lost everything. We must guarantee access to clean water and medical kits for the people that have not yet been helped," stresses Luis Gregorio Mora.

The Venezuelan Red Cross has established four distribution centres and a solidarity network has been set up in towns and cities across the country. In one weekend alone, the Venezuelan Red Cross distributed food kits and water containers to 640 families and hygiene kits to 320 families. The American Red Cross is providing support to the Venezuelan Red Cross in water and sanitation activities in Guadualito.

"Since the Sarare river burst its banks our experience as a local organization has been quite tough, because we did not have our own logistic resources to bring relief to people," says Tairon Panzza, vice-president of the community-based organization Los Morrones, in Guadualito. "Thanks to the hard work of the Red Cross volunteers we were able to organize and distribute the relief aid."

The situation in Apure and elsewhere in Venezuela is likely to worsen as the rainy season continues and more flooding is expected.

Related Links:

02/08/2002 - Floods-Information Bulletin no. 3
26/07/2002 - Floods-Information Bulletin no. 2
24/07/2002 - Floods-Information Bulletin no. 1
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