CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
The Vargas disaster ending 1999 and beginning of 2000 marked all Venezuelans. One of the most destructive natural disasters in Venezuela claimed thousand deaths, missing people, and homeless. The central seashore has not recovered yet from the landslides that swept roads, bridges, buildings and residential developments. These sad events ran concomitantly with a referendum to approve the so-called Bolivarian Constitution
Images of grief proliferated on the whole coast due to a disaster which made no distinction between residential developments or shanty towns. This photo taken by Vicente Correale was awarded a prize by the SND File Photo: Andrés Mata Foundation / Vicente Correale
Just when the country was voting the approval of a constitutional
reform proposed by President Hugo Chávez, nature mercilessly
attacked one of the most densely populated sites in Venezuela,
central Vargas state.
The sad story started with a persistent rain falling on Venezuela for several days, heavily on the central coast. On December 15-16, it rained on the area for more than 12 uninterrupted hours.
In the central states of Vargas and Miranda, ravines and even dams flooded, raising the alarm and foretelling what would come next.
An avalanche of giant stones, mud and water coming down from the top of Ávila mountain swept trees, dwellings and people away. The roads were totally blocked or destroyed.
Tall buildings were literally dynamited by the severe landslides. Rescue works were very hard and complicated, yet Venezuelans' solidarity was evidenced one more time. A prepared civil society efficiently aided hundred thousand homeless and provided them with food, furniture, fittings and medicines.
However, in an impoverished area absolutely dependent on tourism and small trade, misery emerged from the disaster. Looting and theft completed the bizarre picture that would remain in the memory of Vargas residents for long time. To date, the seashore has not been completely recovered and many people regret a poor work to get the area back to normal.
The death toll was never known for sure. The number of homeless was estimated at more than 100,000; the devastation caused losses amounting to billion US dollars.
The avalanche finished the infrastructure; damaged resorts; knocked hotels, and demolished roads. It was one of the largest disasters ever occurred in Venezuela.
In another field, the US basketball superstar Michael Jordan, known as "his air majesty," retired as an active player. Awarded innumerable prizes, the sportsman was a member for 14 times of the All Stars and won two gold medals in the Olympic Games. In 1991, Sports Illustrated magazine named him Sportsperson of the Year.
As for politics, the Patriotic Pole, a pool of pro-government parties, got 120 out of 128 seats in an election held to form the new Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly.
Ecuador was shocked by continued protests against the government of President Khamil Mahuad. He was eventually removed from office, when a court declared him unfit for government.
A trial against Bill Clinton began. It was the first court proceeding against an US President in 130 years.
In South America, stock markets panicked at a financial crisis undergone in Brazil.
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