Venezuelans are still missing after a mudslide buried them in a village

Venezuela landslide kills at least 39 people, over 50 missing

Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro delivers a statement on Monday to mourn the victims of the landslides in the country.

SAN JUAN, Venezuela — A giant mudslide buried residents of a small village in western Venezuela Saturday, killing at least 39 people and leaving many more missing, authorities said.

The powerful quake that struck in the late afternoon Saturday destroyed homes and forced some residents to evacuate in one of the poorest and most violent regions of the country.

The deaths made it one of the worst weather-related disasters in Venezuelan history, which could complicate the government’s efforts to push on with plans for a fourth and final presidential election by October.

The president of Venezuela’s state oil company said he had sent rescue workers, but there were no immediate reports of the missing.

The state oil company of Venezuela blamed the collapse of an oilfield for the disaster Saturday.

“This accident today happened because a well… was collapsing, and its collapse caused an oil spill,” said Jose Antonio Duarte, chief executive of the state oil company. “We are investigating into the cause of the oil spill.”

He said the oil spill had destroyed “approximately 50 structures, which is more than the dead and wounded who were there when the accident occurred.”

The oil-company executive said the well was about 150 meters (500 feet) deep in the eastern Venezuelan state of Maturin.

A resident of Villarica, a village about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the epicenter, told The Associated Press that he was in the church when he heard news of the disaster.

Villarica is in the mountainous area east of Maturin and is home to some 30,000 people. The main population center is El Valle, where authorities say most of the damage is.

“We heard that there was an explosion, and we came out right away,” said Mario Hernandez, the mayor of Villarica. “It was raining heavily, and as we rushed out, we smelled a very strong smell of gas. It was like diesel fuel.”

“The community, which was about a kilometer away, had not been hit by the quake,” said Hector Perez, another mayor. “People had returned to what was their home.”

Residents told The Associated Press that

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