The Miami Herald
Tue, Feb. 15, 2005

Dozens missing following torrential rain, floods

Associated Press

TOVAR, Venezuela - Rivers of mud, rocks and uprooted trees scarred the landscape in a mountain valley where dozens of people were missing Monday after devastating floods and landslides, the latest victims from torrential rains across Venezuela and Colombia that have killed at least 90 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Among those missing was Carlos Alfonso Molina, a 28-year-old bus driver who had been on his regular route home, possibly with passengers aboard, when the Mocoties River overflowed in the pouring rain and washed away parts of several small towns in the Venezuelan Andes.

His younger brother, Hilbert Molina, 26, said he hiked for nearly three hours to the nearest town of Santa Cruz de Mora and found his brother's empty bus partly submerged and smashed against a tree.

He said troops and rescue workers don't have any information about his brother. ''They tell us we have to be patient,'' adding that he next planned to call hospitals.

At least 53 Venezuelans have been killed in a week of floods and landslides that have destroyed the homes of some 21,200 people from the Caribbean coast to the southwestern mountains, Interior Minister Jesse Chacón said. At least 37 people were reported killed in neighboring Colombia and some 25,000 homes destroyed there.

The toll included at least 32 people in the southwestern Venezuelan state of Mérida, two more in the western states of Tachira and Zulia, and 19 others last week in northern and central states, Army Col. Humberto Arellano said.

Bodies of several victims floated for miles down the Mocoties, firefighters said.