Brazil dam collapse: Search for survivors resumes as death toll reaches 58
Feb 12, 2019| Source:

Firefighters in Brazil have resumed their search for hundreds of people missing in the wake of a massive dam collapse.

Crews returned to mud-covered areas on Sunday after a several-hour suspension over fears a second dam was at risk of breach.

The dam burst at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao mine in southeastern Brazil unleashed a torrent of mud on Friday, burying the mining facilities and nearby homes in the town of Brumadinho.

Nearly 300 people are still missing, with the list of those unaccounted for being constantly updated, Flavio Godinho, a spokesman for the Minas Gerais civil defense agency, said.

Most of those lost are presumed dead, officials said.

An aerial view shows flooding triggered by a dam collapse near Brumadinho.

The confirmed death toll rose to 58 on Sunday, according to the Civil Defence Agency.

The death toll exceeded a 2015 tailings dam collapse at an iron ore mine less than 100km (60 miles) to the east, belonging to Samarco Mineracao SA, a Vale joint venture with BHP Group.

The Samarco dam break spilled mining waste into a more remote region five times, killing 19 people, burying a small village and contaminating a major river in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster on record.

Fears about another dam burst in Brumadinho on Sunday triggered evacuation sirens in the town before dawn, but by afternoon officials said there was no risk and the evacuation was called off. 

Rescuers search for victims in the mud-hit community of Casa Grande (MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP/Getty Images)

State fire department spokesman Pedro Aihara initially said 24,000 people would need to be evacuated, but later revised the number down to 3,000. In total, 24,000 people are affected in some way by the disaster, he said.

The Brazilian government has ordered Vale to halt operations at the Corrego do Feijao mining complex.

On Sunday, courts nearly doubled to 11bn reais (£2.2bn) the amount of Vale assets frozen in anticipation of damages and fines.

Vale chief executive Fabio Schvartsman apologised without taking responsibility in an television interview on Saturday.

“Apologies to society, apologies to you, apologies to the whole world for what has happened,” he said. “I don’t know who is responsible, but you can be sure we’ll do our part.”

The cause of the dam burst remains unclear.

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