Friday, February 11, 2005

The Puerto Azul / Playa Azul / Naiguata story

The Naiguata promontory is formed by a torrent delta which separates the village of Naiguata with a large system of public beaches and the private resorts of Puerto Azul and Playa Azul. Puerto Azul was already almost done in in 1999. It looks like this time it was done in again. My brother was in Puerto Azul this holiday and he sent me the story and some pictures. The story first (at least as I understand, as I might to revise some details later as stories keep coming):

All was fine until Monday night when the rain became quite heavy. On Tuesday morning most guests tried to leave but after a few hours most had to come back: the roads were already impassable. He had decided to go on Wednesday morning thus he was relieved that he did not waste the effort to leave on Tuesday morning. Tuesday night the resort still worked. But Wednesday morning the personnel could not come back and the limited night crew had to start improvising things. Resort guests started managing the kitchen and the food distribution as the lights went out, water went out, etc... Long lines were formed for the two single meals of pasta and arepa given to all.

Through Wednesday a lot of people from Camuri and Naiguata village and beaches were sent to Playa Azul and Puerto Azul in prevision of an evacuation as Puerto Azul has the safe harbor of the area. Many arrived from Camuri through helicopter there, to fasten the evacuation instead of flying them to distant Maiquetia. Camuri was already a disaster area as the river had broken through the resort and wiped it out.

Still Wednesday night the situation was in control, and just sending food and water there could have allowed people to remain longer while more critical areas were evacuated. But by Wednesday night things were getting worse and a first evacuation scheme was attempted and failed due to rough seas and constant heavy rain. At some point early morning Thursday the river broke through Puerto Azul (in the pictures below). The first consequence of that, in addition of course to the thousands that were already refugees in Puerto Azul, was that people could not access the harbor anymore as it was cut from the resort by the river!!!!!

The torrent cutting through Puerto Azul, emptying in the harbour and cutting the escape way to the docks.

Another view, this time with the green roof of the walkway to cross the gounds when it rains. The people are standing on the roof and if they were to fall in the torrent they would be carried all theway to the sea.

Another fact aggravated the situation: apparently some of the guests did break in the kitchen at night and made out with the remaining food supply so that there was no more food left for Thursday morning breakfast! Talk about solidarity!!!! Evacuation was thus unavoidable, even more so that by now the only communication road was known to be washed out and could not be driven even if the rain were to stop.

The evacuation was made through Playa Azul, with children, elderly, people, residents, tourists, all waddling through the knee high mud, and the rescuers only able to limit themselves to carry children and elderly. Next picture gives an idea on how far people had to walk, under the rain, through mud to get to the evacuation ship open close to the end of Playa Azul.

Every one left behind all their belongings except a bag where they carried cameras, money, medicine and ID cards and blankets to cover themselves from the incessant rain. Garbage bags from the kitchens were used to protect children. All was left in the hotel rooms, or in the cars that had been parked in triple row in the most protected area of the parking lot (nobody knows if the river reached the parking lot, in the evacuation nobody could check out on that as all the grounds of Playa Azul and Puerto Azul were covered in a sticky layer of mud). Thus Puerto Azul, Playa Azul and the village of Naiguata are a prime target for the ransacking that characterized the incredible pillage scenes of Vargas 1.

Filling up the boat took quite a while, as natives and tourists were piled up, even on the deck where it kept raining on them as if there were no tomorrow. My brother chose the upper deck as the covered area was foul with the smell of gas oil. Eventually they sailed, just to be welcome by Chavez making his crass little show and prolonging the ordeal by a few more minutes. I was told that many people were booing him but the state TV crew, now well trained, managed to hide that aspect of the disembarking, able to shoes enough pro Chavez folks in the landing refugees to provide the "human touch". It must have hurt a lot as most people were loudly blaming Chavez for the renewed collapse of Vargas, and justly so, at least for in some areas.

Arriving in La Guaira as the rain finally relented for a short while. Note that all the sailors are wearing life vests...

Quite an ordeal, but at least with no tragedy. So far. It is raining again today and the soils are probably soaked enough that the mountain is now at risk of sending rocks down hill as it did in 1999. Mud might be a pleasant memory....


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