Brazil dam collapse leaves dozens dead, hundreds missing

January 28, 2019 09:22
Rescue personnel carry a body recovered on Sunday after a tailings dam owned by mining firm Vale collapsed in Brazil two days earlier. Photo: Reuters

Dozens of people were killed and hundreds missing after a dam collapsed at an iron ore mine in southeast Brazil on Friday, with hopes of finding survivors fading, Reuters reports.

The collapsed dam at the Corrego do Feijao mine owned by Vale buried mining facilities and nearby homes in the town of Brumadinho and killed several people.

According to latest reports, the death toll stood at 58 and hundreds are still missing. 

Search efforts were paralyzed for much of the day on Sunday as fears another dam could give way in the Vale iron ore mining complex in the state of Minas Gerais.

Firefighters spent Sunday morning evacuating thousands from their homes before resuming search-and-rescue efforts in the afternoon once authorities ruled out the risk of another dam burst.

“Until the last body is found, the fire department is acting on the possibility there could be people alive,” Reuters quored a state fire department spokesman as saying.

“Obviously, given the nature of the accident, as time passes this chance will go down.”

Nearly 300 people were still missing, with the list of those unaccounted for being constantly updated, the official told reporters. Most of the missing are presumed dead.

The cause of the dam burst remained unclear. Recent inspections did not indicate any problems, according to the German firm that conducted the inspection.

Avimar de Melo Barcelos, the mayor of Brumadinho, blasted Vale for being “careless and incompetent,” and blamed the mining firm for the tragedy and the state of Minas Gerais for poor oversight.

He vowed to fine the miner 100 million reais (US$26.5 million).

Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said in a television interview on Sunday that the disaster happened even after the company followed experts’ safety recommendations.

“I’m not a mining technician. I followed the technicians’ advice and you see what happened. It didn’t work,” Schvartsman said. “We are 100 percent within all the standards, and that didn’t do it.”

The CEO promised “to go above and beyond any national or international standards ... We will create a cushion of safety far superior to what we have today to guarantee this never happens again.”

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