Brazil: 28 people missing after dam disaster

8th Nov 2015
Brazil: 28 people missing after dam disaster

By Ben Tavener

 

SAO PAULO (AA): Twenty-eight people are missing after two mining dams burst in southeastern Brazil, triggering a “tsunami” of mining spoils that engulfed an entire town and affected several others, a local mayor reported Saturday.

Thirteen mine workers and 15 residents from affected local towns remain unaccounted for, according to Mayor Duarte Junior of Mariana in southeastern Minas Gerais state, famous for its iron mines.

At least five children are among the missing, including a 3-month-old, who are feared dead.

The toxic red sludge swept away cars and rose to 2.5 meters (8 feet) high, engulfing entire houses after the two dams burst Thursday afternoon.

Approximately 62 million cubic meters of tailings — water and mining spoils of the iron ore extraction process for which the state is known — were released in the breach, the company has since confirmed. A third dam in the area is being closely monitored.

Just one death has so far been confirmed by the authorities — a 40-year-old male employee at the mine operated by Samarco mining company and owned in a joint venture between Brazilian mining giant Vale and Anglo-Australian mining conglomerate BHP Billiton.

Two bodies have been found more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the scene, in the Rio Doce River, which has been severely contaminated by the waters. Emergency services have not yet confirmed if the deaths are linked.

More than 500 people have been rescued by emergency services and taken to Mariana, where the company says 557 people are being accommodated in hotels at its expense.

Local journalist Roberto Verona was one of the first to arrive on the scene after the dams burst. He told Anadolu Agency that it was “a scene of utter devastation” and described how local residents, including those with injuries, were “calling out for help from the roof tops” of their cut-off homes.

“About 90 percent of the people in [Bento Rodrigues] work for the mines: it has taken away not only lives but livelihoods, and centuries of historic buildings, too,” Verona said.

A 2013 study warned that such an incident could happen with the bigger of the two dams in questions — which the company now says was undergoing routine expansion work when it burst — and recommended an action plan to avoid the scenario, including evacuation plans.

Residents were warned of the breach by phone, but no siren system was in place.

Samarco is cooperating with a criminal probe that has been opened into the incident, according to officials.

[Photo: President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff will have to investigate about why the mines burst. Photographer: Pool/AA

Leave a Comment

What is 14 + 15 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

Latest Tweets