CARACAS (AFP) – At least 25 people have been killed and thousands left homeless as torrential rains have caused the worst flooding in Venezuela in the last 40 years, officials said.
Authorities updated an earlier toll after four bodies were found in the capital, Civil Defense director Luis Diaz Curbelo told state-run television.
Defense Minister Carlos Mata said 33,000 people had sought refuge from the flooding, which has destroyed thousands of homes across a wide swathe of the north and central part of the country, including the capital Caracas.
Experts at the Central University of Venezuela said the flooding was the worst in 40 years, as the heavy rains that have pelted the country since last week were expected to linger for another 48 hours.
President Hugo Chavez’s government has issued emergency decrees for three states in the north — Vargas, Miranda and the Capital District, which includes most of Caracas — and has set up 259 emergency shelters across the country.
Mata said 10,000 troops have been deployed to help provide aid.
Primary schools have been closed this week in 11 states, and the flooding has blocked key roads and shut down some airports and refineries in South America’s largest oil producer.
Many Venezuelans are still haunted by a wave of massive landslides in 1999 in Vargas that killed some 10,000 people and swept entire villages away.
The annual rainy season in Central and South America has been especially heavy this year because of the climate phenomenon known as La Nina.
This year’s flooding has claimed the lives or more than 130 people in Mexico and 400 in Central America, according to officials.