Brazil dam disaster: Hundreds feared dead

Brumadinho: An alarm warning of an imminent mining dam rupture went up early on Sunday in Brumadinho, the same Brazilian community where a dam collapsed killing 34 with hundreds more feared dead, firefighters and the mining company said. An alarm warning of dangerously high water levels at a dam that is part of the Corrego do Feijao mining complex in southeastern Brazil went off at 5.30 am (local time), a statement by the mining company Vale said. A dam at the same mining site burst on Friday, spewing millions of tonnes of treacherous sludge and engulfing buildings, vehicles and roads. Firefighters said they immediately began evacuating communities near the dam. “Attention, general area evacuation!” blared a warning through loudspeakers in Brumadinho, population 39,000. “Find the highest point in the city,” the warning said. Vale’s CEO Fabio Schvartsman and Minas Gerais Governor Romeu Zema earlier warned that the death toll from the Friday rupture could rise. “From now, the odds are minimal (to find more people alive) and it is most likely we will recover only bodies,” Zema told reporters late on Friday.

In Rio, Schvartsman spoke of a “human tragedy”. Search and rescue operati­o­ns, suspended overnight due to rain, resumed at 4 am. Dozens of helicopters were set to be deployed because the thick mud was treacherous for ground rescuers to venture into. Among the over 170 survivors rescued from the disaster, 23 were hospitalised with injuries. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the devastated zone on Saturday, later tweeting it was “difficult to not be emotional before this scene.” All was being done to care for survivors and “determine the facts, to demand justice and prevent new tragedies,” he added. The military said that it deplo­yed 1,000 soldiers, including sniffer dogs, to the disaster zone.

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