Brazil dam collapse: At least seven dead and hundreds missing after disaster triggers mudslides

Brazilian iron ore giant Vale SA says the dam burst at its Mina Feijão mining operation 

Andrew Buncombe
Saturday 26 January 2019 09:20 GMT
Brazil dam collapse: Rescue helicopter helps men from sludge as hundreds 'missing and trapped'

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At least seven people have died and a further 200 people are missing following a dam collapse at a mine in eastern Brazil that has triggered mudslides and chaos, emergency officials have said.

Brazilian iron ore giant Vale SA said the dam had burst at its Mina Feijão mining operation in the town of Brumadinho, in the state of Minas Gerais.

Authorities fear the death toll will continue to rise and a rescue operation is underway at the dam about 40 miles south west from the city of Belo Horizonte.

The dam and Feijão iron ore mine are owned by Brazil’s largest mining company, Vale.

Vale and local authorities said leaked tailings from the Corrego de Feijão mine had spread into the nearby community Vila Forteco, close to Brumadinho.

Footage broadcast on local television showed the mudflow sweeping over roads and destroying buildings in its path, according to the BBC.

The accident comes three years after Brazil’s worst environmental disaster when a larger dam owned jointly by Vale and BHP Billiton broke in the same region, burying local homes and killing 19 people.

The Inhotim Institute, an outdoor contemporary art museum in a park three miles from Brumadinho, evacuated visitors and closed its doors out of safety precautions, reports said.

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On Friday morning, a statement from the fire brigade’s headquarters in the city of Belo Horizonte said crews were searching for 200 people still unaccounted for.

Vale said in a statement: “The company deeply regrets the accident and is making every effort to provide relief and support to those affected.

“The tailings have reached the administrative area where employees were working, indicating, the still unconfirmed possibility of victims. Part of the Vila Ferteco community has also been affected.”

It added: “Rescue and care of the wounded is being carried out on site by the fire department and civil defence. There is still no confirmation as to the cause of the accident.”

Video footage showed helicopters plucking people covered in mud from the area, including a woman with a fractured hip who was among eight injured people taken to hospital, officials said.

Television reports also showed people running away as the dam broke, and nearby fields with bean crops destroyed by packed mud.

A government spokesperson told reporters the country’s environment minister, Ricardo Salles, is travelling to the scene.

It said president Jair Bolsonaro will visit the region on Saturday.

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