- Title: VENEZUELA: Flood victims settle in at hotels
- Date: 9th December 2010
- Summary: VARIOUS OF FAMILY WATCHING TELEVISION (3 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 24th December 2010 12:00
- Location: Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
- Country: Venezuela
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVAEHV34KZ0X7WTNG8ZWONXBLJ2S
- Story Text: Venezuelan flood victims were settling into resort hotels on Tuesday (December 07) after President Hugo Chavez demanded the hotels be opened up as refuges for victims of incessant rains that have driven some 100,000 people from their homes.
People slogged through the streets of Higuerote, a coastal resort city on the Caribbean east of Caracas and one of the hardest hit areas by flooding that has killed over 30 people.
Chavez declared a state of emergency earlier in the week in several areas, including the capital Caracas. People in Higuerote, which sits in the state of Miranda, divvied up aid supplies brought in by the national guard.
Area resident Maria Liendo said the rains have been relentless.
"It's been raining for 17 straight days. The back of the house is falling down. The river came in through the kitchen and went out the door twice. What else can I say? We've lost almost everything," she said.
Aerial images showed swollen rivers winding through the streets of towns as troops patrolled the air looking for trapped victims. They pulled one elderly woman from a flooded area and took her to a nearby landing strip.
Chavez declared on Sunday that hotels would be used as refuges for the flood victims, who were already staying in more traditional temporary housing like schools and sport clubs.
The declaration on hotels touched off criticism of Chavez, accused by the opposition as being an authoritarian who doesn't respect private property. But on Tuesday national guard brass sat down with a committee of local hotel and owners, most of whom opened their doors to victims.
Hotel owner Giussepe Mussone said he would give up his vacant rooms for people who have lost their homes.
"We are open to helping people affected by this problem we have. I have 29 rooms available," Mussone said.
Despite criticism, national guard head Luis Mota Dominguez said the hotel owners have been more than cooperative.
"They accepted it completely. The hotel owners are very open to helping our countrymen who are being affected by the rains. As you have already heard, they are unselfishly and without other motives cooperating with the Venezuelan people," he said.
The wet weather had already driven most tourists from the places like Higuerote and huge resort hotels such largely empty, although some time share owners ran for the coast to take care of their apartments fearing they would be taken over by flood victims.
At the Agua Marina hotel in Higuerote, soldiers patrolled halls and families hunkered down as the rains continue to punish the area.
Marbella Sanchez said she and her family had been treated well at the resort.
"We are grateful to the owner of the Agua Marina hotel. They've been good to us, treated us well," she said.
But the temporary shelter didn't take the sting out of the loss for people Hilda Castillo, who said she lost everything.
"I lost my entire home. I left on Sunday and now there's nothing there. The children's clothes, the televisions, everything fell on the floor. We don't have anything," she said.
Chavez, who on Sunday blamed "criminal" capitalism for the disaster, has given 25 families refuge in his presidential palace and ordered space to be made for others in ministries and army barracks.
Critics of Chavez say the impact of the rains show poor planning by his government and the failure of its housing policy after 11 years in power. Chavez says he is still working to overturn the inequalities of past capitalist governments.
The downpours in recent months are due to the La Nina weather phenomenon, which the government's weather office expects to last into the first quarter of next year.
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