Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing, as authorities say ‘huge’ search operation underway.
Officials say more than 40 people were confirmed dead after a “huge” landslide struck Venezuela late on Thursday, and another 12 people are missing.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has declared three days of mourning in his country, where the landslide, which happened late on Wednesday, struck in the mountain range of the Apure region.
Maduro said at least 39 people were killed but this was later revised to 42 and authorities said they were focusing on the possibility that many more may be missing. More than 50 people remain unaccounted for, authorities said.
Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman, reporting from Maturino, on the Venezuelan coast, said at least seven people are thought to be injured after the earthquake.
“Many people from the area are now going to seek shelter in a local monastery,” she said, adding that her report was being heavily edited for broadcast.
“I think these landslides are not uncommon in this area [in the mountains] because of the large number of steep slopes and unstable ground.”
According to Newman, one area of the mountain range is considered particularly risky, especially because locals have often been hit by landslides before.
“The local parish priest said the mountain is a place of great power and we pray our lives will not be lost,” Newman said.
The landslide struck in the town of Maturino, which is near the epicentre, and sent residents scrambling for higher ground.
Local media reports said at least 40 people have been killed, but a government spokesman said 42 bodies had been recovered and an official from the health ministry put the death toll at 50.
“We don’t know how long these bodies will stay in the mountain or how many people are still missing,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Venezuela’s public security minister.
A day after the landslide, the head of Venezuela’s Red Cross Red Trent, Rafael Ortega, said that the organisation had received reports of more than 30 new victims, many