Venezuela: Up to 30,000 feared dead

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The Independent Online
VENEZUELAN AUTHORITIES said yesterday the death toll from mudslides and flash floods that swamped Venezuela's Caribbean coast last week could be as high as 30,000.

"There are unfortunately thousands of people buried in the mud, and the final number we will never know," said Angel Rangel, the Civil Defence national director. "The forecast that we could have may be 25,000 or 30,000 people."

President Hugo Chavez attempted to deflect the anger of a nation casting around for someone to blame for the disaster. He pointed his finger at the kleptocracy he replaced last year, which he said hadpocketed money meant for housing and roads.

Others, however, said the President was so obsessed on the day of the floods with a constitutional referendum that he failed to act to save people from the threatening disaster.

Aid pledges began to pour in yesterday, with the British Government committing pounds 500,000 to the country's storm-ravaged areas.