Friday 20 September 2019

Hundreds reported missing after Brazil dam collapse

Photos show the rooftops of structures poking above an extensive field of mud in the town of Brumadinho.

Flooding triggered by a collapsed dam near Brumadinho in Brazil (Bruno Correia/Nitro via AP)
Flooding triggered by a collapsed dam near Brumadinho in Brazil (Bruno Correia/Nitro via AP)

By Anna Jean Kaiser and Marcelo Silva De Sousa, Associated Press

At least seven people are dead and around 200 are missing after a mining dam collapsed in Brazil.

Brazilian mining company Vale SA said the flow reached the community of Vila Ferteco and an administrative office, where employees were present, which “indicated the possibility of victims.”

The company said it did not have further information on deaths or injuries at the dam, located in the town of Brumadinho.

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Around 200 people are estimated to be missing (Bruno Correia/Nitro via AP)

Parts of the city were evacuated and local firefighters were rescuing people by helicopter and ground vehicles.

There were no official reports of deaths, but the state fire department press department told The Associated Press that about 200 people were estimated to be missing.

Local television channel TV Record showed a firefighters’ helicopter hovering inches off the ground as it pulled people covered in mud out of the sludge.

Photos showed the rooftops of structures poking above an extensive field of the mud, which also cut off roads.

President Jair Bolsonaro sent a tweet saying he lamented the incident and was sending the three cabinet ministers to the area.

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An aerial view after the dam collapsed (Bruno Correia/Nitro via AP)

Another dam administered by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, in 2015, resulting in 19 deaths and displacing hundreds from their homes.

It is considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, with 60 million cubic metres of waste flooding rivers and eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean.

The rivers of mining waste are raising fears of widespread contamination. According to Vale’s website, tailings are mostly made up of sand and are non-toxic. However, a UN report found that the waste from the 2015 disaster “contained high levels of toxic heavy metals”. The 2015 collapse left 250,000 people without drinking water and killed thousands of fish.

Vale is Brazil’s largest mining company. Two hours after the accident, Vale stocks fell 10% on the New York Stock Exchange.

PA Media

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