Hundreds of Colombians waded across a border river with fridges, chickens and mattresses on their backs as goats and children followed under the scorching tropical sun, victims of an escalating dispute with Venezuela’s government.

Saying they were forced from their rickety wooden or corrugated metal homes and scared of what might happen next if they stayed inside Venezuela, they fled across the River Tachira and back into their homeland on Tuesday.

“I feel impotent. I want to cry. I lost everything overnight,” Darwin Arenas, a 26-year-old Colombian, said as he and his Venezuelan wife dragged their possessions across the river in a wheelbarrow.

Most of the refugees have lived for years in Ernesto Guevara, an extremely poor Venezuelan border village, or other nearby settlements, but they were forced to leave after Venezuelan authorities marked their homes with a “D” for “demolition” over the weekend.

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