The problems extended beyond the hospitals. Elderly people in high-rise flats had to be carried down stairs. People cooked food with fire and ate by candlelight. Without power, food spoiled in warming refrigerators, traffic lights failed and transport systems ground to a halt. The pumps that drove running water to people’s homes stopped, sending residents on a desperate search for water in nearby rivers, streams and even sewers.
Throughout the year, Venezuela has been plagued with power outages. Some are short and localised, lasting just a few minutes, others take hours for the power to come back, but some go on for days. As they have continued, Castro and his colleagues have recorded more deaths as a result.
“If you have even four hours without electricity in a hospital, it is far from normal,” says Castro. “The situation with the water is even worse. There are some hospitals that are having to ask patients to bring in their own water with them because they simply cannot get enough supply.”