Floods have destroyed the crops and homes of several thousand Yanomami Indians, one of the last primitive tribes in the Western Hemisphere.
"They're suffering a lot. They don't have anything to eat," said Jaime Turon, mayor of the Upper Orinoco municipality, 900 miles southeast of Caracas near the Brazil border.In late May, the Orinoco River in the remote Amazon rain forest starting overflowing, he said. It has left the reed homes of the Yanomami under about 13 feet of water.
The flooding has also wiped out their yucca and plantain food gardens, destroyed schools and other buildings constructed by Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries and left a recently built airstrip under several feet of water.
Several thousand Indians from other tribes also lost their gardens, he said. About 22,000 Indians live in the municipality, which is accessible only by airplane or boat.
"I've never seen this kind of flooding," said Turon, a Ye'Kuana Indian who has lived in the region 40 years. He traveled to Caracas this week to request more government aid.
The Indians have fled to higher ground. They are suffering a shortage of food because most fruits and vegetables in the jungle are out of season, and most animals have fled, he said.
Government officials have flown in some supplies of rice and sardines, but much more is needed, he added.