Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos told TV channel Telesur on Thursday that "50 people" had "unfortunately lost their lives" and their bodies had been "handed over" to their relatives. He did not, however, give details on the number of missing persons, which stood at 56 on Tuesday.
A putrid smell emanates from the cemetery of this small town of 50,000 inhabitants built on the mountainside and devastated on Saturday by mudslides which swept away everything in their path: houses, trees, stone cars.
Of the 50 bodies found, 16 were buried, according to cemetery workers.
“It was sad,” says one of them, who asks not to be named, clearing brush. "This one belongs to a three-year-old girl who slipped from her mother's arms when the tragedy happened," he adds, pointing to the blue-tiled grave where the little girl was buried. buried on Thursday.
A few meters away, a mound of earth topped with a small bouquet of flowers covers the grave of an elderly couple.
Two other burials are planned for this Friday, but it is necessary to wait for the identification of the bodies by forensic medicine.
Raul Borges does not know what to do or who to contact. He found his wife dead in the river and when he went to collect the body from the morgue, he was told it had already been released... "They say they don't have it," explains this 67-year-old man with red eyes. Authorities were unable to tell him to whom the body had been handed over.
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Meanwhile, cleanup and power restoration work continues in the town, while much of the debris and mud that has piled up there has been removed from the main streets.
Crews from the electricity and telephone companies are busy while tankers make shuttles to distribute water. Some businesses have even reopened.
However, entire areas remain inaccessible and many residents of Las Tejerias continue to dump mud and water from their homes.
On Wednesday, military helicopters dropped food parcels.
"It all happened in seconds," said Jesus Chavez, a 32-year-old survivor. “We managed to jump from roof to roof. People were shouting Help! Help!”.
"I tried to hand a hose to a boy (so that he hangs on to it). But he couldn't get out of it. The current was too strong. He was swept away," he continues. , claiming to have still managed to save six people, including a woman who "lost her two babies, including a few months old".
The authorities have set up reception centers for those affected who will also be temporarily placed in social housing in other regions of Venezuela.
A UN commission was due to visit Las Tejerias on Friday. In particular, it was to provide humanitarian aid, a UN source told AFP.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said in a statement on Thursday that it had donated "medicines and materials for 5,000 people", as well as "10,000 water purification tablets" to the Ministry of Health. , each of which can purify 10 liters of drinking water".