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AMID CHAOS, VENEZUELA RECOILS AGAINST 'CATASTROPHE TOURISTS'

Venezuela restricted travel to its stricken Caribbean coast Tuesday to discourage gawking "catastrophe tourists" from adding to the crush of people impeding rescue efforts where up to 50,000 people might have died.

"There are too many people in the area who have no business being there, doing what I regret to have to call 'catastrophe tourism,' " Education Minister Hector Navarro told a news conference.

Having evacuated about 100,000 people from the devastated coast of Vargas state, just north of Caracas, authorities turned their attention to helping 300,000 people survive without clean water, fresh food or sanitation after mudslides and floods struck two weeks ago.

But efforts were hampered by groups returning to look for lost family members, people trying to salvage their belongings and the catastrophe tourists.

"It is unacceptable to have youths with cups full of soda taking pleasure trips down there, taking photographs with their girlfriends," Navarro said.

Groups of curious city dwellers have recently been coming to the disaster area from Caracas.

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