Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says death toll from landslide is “heaviest in the history of Venezuela”

Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing after massive mudslide (REUTERS) The landslide has destroyed a community of fishermen and locals who were just outside the village By Elizabeth Hernandez RIO…

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says death toll from landslide is "heaviest in the history of Venezuela"

Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing after massive mudslide (REUTERS)

The landslide has destroyed a community of fishermen and locals who were just outside the village

By Elizabeth Hernandez

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Mudslides in southern Venezuela have killed at least 39 people, more than 50 have been missing, and rescuers are struggling to reach the hardest-hit communities, as the disaster spreads to a wider area in the Amazon basin.

The landslides have destroyed a community of fishermen and locals who were just outside the village of Guiria, which was destroyed when the mudslide struck on Friday. On Saturday the local mayor, Oscar Perez, said at least five other people had died.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday the toll from the disaster was “the heaviest in the history of Venezuela”. He said that in addition to the dead and missing, at least 20 people had also gone missing in the Amazon area, an area some 2,200 km (1,400 miles) north and west of Caracas.

The National Armed Forces of Venezuela confirmed they had recovered 10 bodies, including four of possible murder victims, from the Guiria community.

The landslide has cut the Guiria community off from the local fishing village, but President Maduro said the area is now under the control of the navy and air force.

The president said the government is looking to reopen the road to Caracas, with the help of the National Guard, but added that traffic would be delayed.

He accused the opposition of being behind the tragedy, saying it had been conspiring with the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a government-sanctioned rebel group.

Earlier on Saturday, the chief of the navy said at least 10 other people have died in accidents caused by landslides, and that three people were on the run.

Venezuelan state-run television reported the death toll from the landslide had risen to 39 from the previous 30. It said four people were still missing.

The Red Cross said the landslide had opened a road to the capital, Caracas.

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