Group Of Venezuelans Vanish On Spiritual Mountain Retreat

Authorities are searching for a group of Venezuelans who vanished while on a spiritual retreat in the Andes after reportedly following a woman who claimed to have had a revelation from the Virgin Mary.

The group reportedly set out into the mountains on August 22 on a "spiritual retreat"
The group reportedly set out into the mountains on August 22 on a "spiritual retreat"

The civil protection team confirmed that between 16 and 20 people were missing while local media reported the number could be even higher. Dogs and drones have been deployed by authorities to search the mountainous area around La Grita, in Venezuela's Táchira state.

Relatives of the missing people claim they have not heard from their family members since they left for the retreat back on 22 August.

La Nacion, a local newspaper, reported that a number of local families had packed camping equipment and food and headed off into the mountains on what they described as a four-day spiritual retreat.

The group had reportedly followed a woman who claimed she had received a revelation by the Virgin Mary, according to a priest in La Grita.

During a Sunday sermon, the priest warned his congregation of the dangers of listening to "fanatics" who made claims about the end of the world being nigh.

A member of the local civil protection authority, Yesnardo Canal, said a number of children, as well as a newborn baby, were among the missing.

A search team carried out operations in the area where locals had reported seeing the group on Tuesday, but nothing was found. La Grita is surrounded by moorlands that reach a height of around 3,000m.

The local mayor described the disappearances as "very suspicious".

He added: "There are several theories of what may have happened but we won't know what really happened until the investigations have been concluded."

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