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domingo, febrero 13, 2005

Thousands left homeless by floods

I'm writing this in my notebook, not sure when I'll be able to send it. The rains have gotten worse. Here in Merida it's okay -- actually it's sunny and hot. But in the surrounding towns things are pretty bad. Phone lines between here and those towns are cut off, the airport's closed, and the highways are largely impassable.

When I woke up this morning the whole family was crowded around the TV watching the news. They've got family in several of the towns, El Vigia and Santa Cruz, and they can't get in touch with them. They're going to try to drive over there this afternoon, if the highways are open. I wish there was something I could do to help, but there really isn't.

Also, internet connections are down region-wide, and no buses are leaving for Caracas until further notice. Seems unlikely that there'll be any tomorrow. So I'll probably be here a few more days. If I stay past this weekend I'll need to get a room in room in a posada (family-run motels). Right now I'm just sitting in the park watching the kids chase the pigeons...normalcy...

Wonder if they need volunteers in Caracas to help with flood recovery. If there's anything to be done that doesn't require great Spanish or knowledge of the city.

(written later that night): Well, my host family's relatives called and they're okay, so that's one piece of good news. But conditions are still bad in the surrounding areas. At least 20 people have been killed here and in Caracas, and nearly 15,000 have lost their homes, include an aunt of the family I'm staying with.

The Merida airport is still closed and the intercity buses aren't running due to flooding and landslides on the highways. Internet is down in the whole city and I heard that several major call phone carriers aren't working -- a big problem in a country where more people have cells than have land lines. Everywhere around town are centers accepting donations of clothing, food, potable water for all those whose houses were destroyed.

In Caracas the rains fell earlier this week, and since the poorer neighborhoods there are all built on the hillsides, mudslides have brought down thousands of houses. Here (PDF) is a detailed report by the Venezuelan Red Cross from a few days ago.

As for me, guess I'll just stay where I am for a few days...

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