Torrential rains leave 13 dead in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) — At least 13 people died in the Venezuelan Andes after heavy rains triggered mud and rock slides, local authorities said Tuesday.

Several hours of downpours in the Mocoties valley, a farming region in western Merida state that attracts a lot of tourism, caused boulders to tumble down mountainsides, blocking off roads.

Eleven people died in the village of Tovar and two children died in Pinto Salinas, Merida governor Ramon Guevara said.

Images shared on social media showed a stream of water carrying vehicles down a street in Tovar.

Others showed cars buried in mud or stuck between tree roots sticking out of a quagmire surrounded by rocks and furniture.

Guevara said the Mocoties river had burst its banks and flooded Tovar, which has been cut off from electricity and telephone coverage.

Roads accessing the town have also been blocked.

“It’s a dramatic, sad and desperate situation. It’s not easy to lose everything, worse still to lose family members,” Jesus Quintero, a journalist based on Merida, told AFP.

“It’s a repeat of the 2005 tragedy.”

That year, 41 people died and 52 went missing following torrential rains in Merida.

Heavy rains have also affected other parts of Venezuela, including the capital Caracas.

The government meteorological institute has warned that six rivers may burst their banks while three states — Bolivar, Guarico and Zulia — are on red alert.

© Agence France-Presse