The events that occurred in the city of Las Tejerías, Aragua state, on October 8, had the following impacts as of Tuesday the 11th: 43 deceased, 56 missing, 123 homes in the risk area, and 757 homes affected. This was reported by President Nicolás Maduro in a joint radio and television broadcast.
Climate change and localized anomalies
Multilateral organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have reported that, as a consequence of the global climate crisis, different regions of the planet have been experiencing extreme weather events. This, combined with the complexities of the human ecosystem, produces catastrophes in which the victims are usually vulnerable communities located in spaces close to bodies of water such as rivers or gulfs.
In an interview with VTV, the president of the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMEH), Colonel José Pereira, indicated that after midday on Saturday, October 8, a trench developed, which was “a consequence of Hurricane Julia that affected the Caribbean. In six hours, nearly a month’s precipitation fell” on the area of Las Tejerías.
He highlighted that the station INAMEH has, in the center of the affected city, recorded rainfall of 108/lm², and in the mountainous areas, it could reach 150 or 200/lm².
Tropical wave No. 41 became tropical depression No. 13 during its passage over northern Venezuela; Hurricane Julia, which affected Central America, originated from this depression. Since early morning on Thursday the 6th, heavy rains have been recorded in several states of the country, leaving overflowing rivers, landslides, flooded urban developments, and fallen trees as a consequence.
The head of INAMEH warned that the accumulation of rain could cause landslides in mountainous areas and floods in low-lying areas such as valleys.
A tropical wave originates from a channel of low pressure that moves from east to west through the Atlantic Ocean, and along its path, downpours and electrical discharges follow. In addition, they can cause the formation of tropical cyclones. However, a tropical depression is the birth of a tropical cyclone with constant maximum winds whose speed can reach up to 64 km/h. If the speed of the winds intensifies, it becomes a tropical storm.
Why was Las Tejerías flooded?
The Santos Michelena municipality of Aragua state is located in the eastern area in the northern region of its circumscribed territory, at the foot of the Serranía del Litoral range. With an area of 220 km² and a population close to 55,000 inhabitants, it belongs to the Caribbean Sea Basin; its rivers, including the Caño Amarillo and the Cagua, flow into the Tuy, which crosses it from west to east.
The area has dry vegetation and is surrounded by dry forests and grasslands, which are susceptible to deforestation due to forest fires in steep, canal-filled areas, with continuous erosion of its gullies, in some cases threatening mass landslides.
For more than 15 days, rainfall saturated the upper basin in the area and made the soils permeable. The previous Tuesday, October 4, tropical wave No. 41 had gained energy over waters at 30ºC and became a tropical depression near Los Roques. The day before, rainfall equivalent to a typical October, which is one of the wettest months, fell on the area. Saturday dawned clear in the north of Venezuela, and the excessive evaporation of the water that fell in the previous days led to rains and lightening in the afternoon hours.
However, this was the only reason for the displacement of rocks, vegetation, and sediment. Since 2020, the weather pattern called La Niña has been active, which occurs when the trade winds in the Caribbean strengthen, cold water in the equatorial zone rises, and the sea temperature is below normal, which directly oppose the conditions of El Niño.
The effects of La Niña and El Niño, which range from droughts to floods, and from intense rains to hurricanes, always depend on the area of the oscillation: it can indiscriminately produce droughts in Latin America, intense snowfalls in the northern United States, or droughts in Australia or the Pacific Islands.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States (NOAA) and other meteorological organizations in Latin America had already forecast a couple of months ago “a La Niña of moderate intensity” which may influence the last months of the current cyclone season in the Atlantic, where cyclones have been particularly active.
The report added that since 2020, La Niña has been strengthened with a long hurricane season in the Atlantic, dry conditions in South America, and heavy rains in Central America and northern South America. In Latin America, it manifests itself in two totally different forms: heavy and abundant rains, increased river flow and subsequent flooding in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and northern Brazil, and drought conditions in Peru, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Response of the authorities and the Venezuelan people
President Nicolás Maduro declared the area a “disaster zone and natural catastrophe” and announced three days of mourning for the human losses recorded. On Tuesday the 11th, a presidential command post was set up in the affected city. Some progress has been made to date: 95% of the electricity in the area has been recovered, and cell service has been completely restored. Some 442 families are in shelters, and inhabitants of the area have received a stipend from the government.
The minister of public works and services, Néstor Reverol, explained that more than 1,000 workers remain deployed in eight service fronts to intervene on main roads, four ravines, and the transversal axis of the Tuy River, where 17 mechanized units have also been deployed.
The National Assembly appointed a commission of deputies to organize aid and accompaniment for the victims.
In addition, different segments of the organized people and state institutions have spontaneously activated collection centers to receive clothing, footwear, drinking water, medicine, undergarments, basic cooking utensils, drinking water, non-perishable food, mattresses, sheets, towels, and diapers. Solidarity in action has been extensive among the national population.
Different missions have been committed to moving to the area, including the Food Mission that has transported protein and dry items to the affected families.
Un equipo de expertos del Instituto de Geógrafos Nacional se instalará en el sitio. pic.twitter.com/qVpz14eVeZ
— Madelein Garcia (@madeleintlSUR) October 13, 2022
Vice President Delcy Rodríguez participated in a meeting with the scientific community to receive recommendations, proposals, and solutions from the affected areas. Likewise, loads of food, water and equipment have been launched from military helicopters, arriving by parachute to areas that are difficult to access by road.
— GJ. Domingo Hernández Lárez (@dhernandezlarez) October 12, 2022
The INAMEH has reported that three new tropical waves will arrive in Venezuela in the coming days to complete the 35 that have affected the country.
Last Wednesday, a forecast from the institution reported that No. 43 is already in the north of the country, affecting some eastern states in its path and advancing at 27 km/h to the west, from the Atlantic Ocean towards Central America and the Caribbean. It is expected to generate intense rains from Wednesday the 12th towards the states of Aragua and Carabobo and the Capital District.
Tropical wave No. 44 was in the tropical Central Atlantic, while wave No. 45 was already advancing west of Cape Verde, on the African continent, on its way to the Caribbean area.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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