Venezuelan authorities seek missing Belgians

Venezuelan authorities called off a search for two Belgian tourists who have been missing in a national park near neighboring Colombia since November, officials said Tuesday. Francisco Solorzano, director of the national emergency response agency in the western state of Merida state, said a month-long search had failed to locate Casper Knops and Christophe Fasseur in the Sierra Nevada National Park, located roughly 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Caracas. The search began shortly after the Belgian Embassy in Caracas reported on Dec. 17 that the two 23-year-old tourists were missing after they went to hike in the park, which is popular with foreign tourists. Solorzano told the state-run Bolivarian News Agency that more than 100 rescue workers, police and National Guard troops were involved in the search.

A Web site created by the men's families states that Knops' parents last heard from their son on Nov. 20 when he sent an e-mail message that he was planning to go to the Andes with his friend. They were due to fly back to Brussels on Dec. 14, but never made it back to Caracas.

Knops is from the town of Vosselaar and Fasseur is from Dentergem, according to an article published in Belgium's De Standaard newspaper on Dec 21. Sierra Nevada National Park encompasses 2,764 square kilometers (1,067 square miles) of mostly mountainous territory, including Bolivar Peak with an altitude of 5,007 meters (16,427 feet), reports the AP. N.U.