Civil Defence authorities in Venezuela have increased their estimate of the number of people killed in the weekend floods to 30,000. Thousands of people are still buried in mud caused by driving rain, ravaging the country's Caribbean coast. Entire towns disappeared in the flooding. The government has said reconstruction would run into billions of pounds and take many years.

Food, medicines and other relief supplies have been arriving in Venezuela, where thousands of people have been made homeless by floods and mudslides. The Venezuelan ambassador to London, Roy Chadderton Martos, described the situation as beyond the worst nightmares of the Venezuelan people. The country's Foreign Minister has thanked the international community for its support, but says that more help is needed.

Authorities are now trying to persuade people to leave the coastal areas affected by the floods due to concerns that epidemics of disease may result from untreated sewage and corpses. After helping nearly 70,000 people to safety, rescue workers have continued to dig for survivors of devastating floods and mudslides that may have killed up to 25,000 Venezuelans. Authorities said yesterday that they feared the death toll from the floods and mudslides that struck northern Venezuela would reach catastrophic proportions.

President Chavez outlined an ambitious program to relocate the 140,000 people he said had lost their homes in the tragedy. Under the program, the victims would be given assistance and land, mainly from military areas, to build houses.

As the magnitude of the catastrophe becomes clear, the international community has responded. The United States sent additional helicopters and six military transport planes, as part of $3m dollars of emergency aid. Britain made an initial contribution of £500,000 pounds yesterday, while Canada said that it was sending $119,000 in humanitarian aid and the German foreign ministry said this morning that it would donate 270,000 euros.