Venezuelans die in landslide that dumps millions of tons of mud and rocks into slum slum

Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing as rain lashes Caracas

A man searches for his wife near where a landslide occurred in the Barquisimeto district Wednesday. (Eduardo Verdugo, Reuters)

CARACAS, Venezuela — A massive landslide in the eastern slum of Caracas struck a residential neighborhood in the country’s capital Wednesday, unleashing an avalanche of mud and rocks that killed at least 39 people and left at least 50 others missing, authorities said.

Scores more were injured in the mudslide, which appeared to have begun in front yards and a soccer field. At least two homes in the neighborhood were destroyed and their residents swept away by the wall of mud and debris, said resident Juan C. Castillo.

Among the dead were a mother and her four children. The president of Venezuela’s state oil company, the PDVSA, said three of those killed in the landslide were members of the PDVSA.

“We hope we’ll recover them from the mud,” Hugo Chávez said in comments broadcast by state television.

Some 6,000 homes in the area have been destroyed.

The tragedy’s toll was not immediately known.

The storm’s rain lashed the city, cutting off electricity in at least five sections of downtown Caracas. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.

It was one of the worst weather-related disasters in Venezuela’s modern history.

A similar slide in 2008 killed at least 15 people in a slum on the outskirts of Caracas and dumped millions of tons of mud.

Venezuelan television broadcast images of the victims of Wednesday’s slide, including a woman in an orange T-shirt and a man holding his shirt sleeve. The woman’s face is covered by a towel. The people holding the bodies also wore T-shirts.

The disaster comes a day after the country saw its fourth day of intense fighting between government troops and opposition protesters in the capital.

Several dozen people had been killed and nearly 800 wounded in the clashes, according to state-run media.

Opponents of Chávez’s government said the government will use a military force to protect an oil shipment through the Panama Canal.

One opposition legislator said he knew of no other way to get oil out of the country.

“The only way

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