The roads are deathly quiet. Antonio Perez's shabby old taxi carefully makes its way along the main highway into Caracas. Yet terror is only yards ahead...
Image via kimmco
A looming shape becomes visible through the gloom and Perez, who drives these roads every day, knows exactly what it is - he swerves, losing control of the car, sparks go flying and for a brief moment his life flashes before his eyes, yet somehow he wrestles the wheel round and brings the vehicle to a controlled stop. The taxi driver and his passengers have narrowly avoided become the latest victim of the Venezuelan terror blob, a horrifying monster that has so far claimed the lives of over 1800 people.
Venezuelans call it La Mancha Negra - The Black Stain - but the layer of thick goo covering an eight mile stretch of road outside Caracas resembles a terrifying blob straight out of a 1950's sci-fi movie and just like the latter, it has been responsible for hundreds of deaths. So what is it and where did it come from?
Many explanations have been offered, from extraterrestrial intervention to poorly made asphalt road, but the Venezuelan government remains mystified - even experts flown in from around the globe have been unable to shed light on it. And whilst the authorities remain stumped, the blob has not only expanded to over one hundred times its original size, but killed hundreds of motorists.
"We don't know what it is. We clean it away and it comes back the next day. It's frightening," said Arturo Carvajal, an engineer and vice-president of the company attempting to remove the blob. Carvajal has tried everything from pressurised water and detergent to pulverised limestone and prayers, but the blob refuses to shift and now thirty years after its first appearance, it's bigger and more dangerous than ever. Over 1800 people have been killed on an eight-mile stretch in the last five years - an astonishing tally - and although the blob may not be directly responsible for all them all, the danger posed is plain for all to see.
So what is it?
The most popular theory holds that the cheap, poorly-made asphalt used in the construction of the road is bleeding oil at high temperature and in a country where corruption is rife there is the inevitable finger-pointing. The Venezuelan national oil company, responsible for producing the road, received a large contract for the job and many feel they cut costs on cheap production techniques to maximise profits. Some even believe they are purposefully botching the repair job in order to keep raking in profit.
Ruth Capriles, Venezuela's foremost whistle-blower and author of the two-volume ‘Corruption Dictionary' - a compendium of the nation's corruption cases - has her own theory on the blob: she thinks political opponents of President Carlos Andres Perez were dumping oil on the roads to make his government look bad. "There could be corruption, but who knows for sure? Everybody is giving a different explanation." Then there is the theory that raw sewage from slums somehow is flowing under the roads and triggering a chemical reaction in the asphalt.
Whatever it is, one thing is for certain: it's not going away anytime soon, and if the Venezuelan government don't do something about it in the near future, they could very well be left with a real horror story on their hands.
Source: Seattle Times