CARACAS (AFP) – Days of driving rain have sparked massive flooding in Venezuela that has killed at least 21 people and left thousands homeless, Vice President Elias Jaua said Tuesday.
“We are talking about 21 people who have died between Thursday and today Tuesday,” Jaua said on VTV state television.
The dead included two rescue workers who headed out to help stranded locals and ended up swept away by a river themselves, the governor of the state of Vargas, Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, said.
Many of the dead were swept away by rushing water or were killed when their homes collapsed on top of them, authorities said.
President Hugo Chavez’s government issued emergency decrees for three states in the north: Vargas, Miranda and the Capital District including most of Caracas.
Also hard hit were other northern states such as Nueva Esparta, Carabobo and Aragua.
The rains and flooding closed some airports and oil refineries, blocked roads and destroyed thousands of homes.
Rain was forecast to continue over the next 24 hours, forecasters said.