12 October 2022
Las Tejerías: Planet Labs imagery starts to clarify the sequence of events
The cost of the Las Tejerías landslides in Venezuela is slowly becoming clear. El Pais indicated today that to date 39 bodies have been recovered from the town, with a further 56 people missing. The prospects of any further survivors are now close to zero, such that the final toll will be almost 100 people. Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, has now visited the town and pledged to rebuild it, although history from similar sites around the world shows that such promises are frequently not delivered. Meanwhile there are complaints that the media has been limited in its ability to report on the disaster.
The trail of sediment through the town is clear. Planet Labs has captured an image of the site; unfortunately the area to the north remains shrouded in cloud:-
This image clearly shows that the main flow came down the channel of the Rio Las Tejerías, which flows through the town from the north, as I speculated on Monday. This has flows into the town, causing extensive damage to the properties close to its banks. The inundation in the main part of the town can be seen. In fact, most of Las Tejerías is constructed on a delta formed by this channel, so the hazard was clear.
In the visible sections of the Rio Las Tejerías the effects of the mudflow can be seen. Unfortunately, the upper reaches of this channel remain covered in cloud, so it is not possible to determine what caused the flow. Hopefully the cloud will clear in the coming days.
Reference and acknowledgement
Planet Team (2022). Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. https://www.planet.com/