34 dead and hundreds missing in Brazil dam collapse | 2019-01-27 | daily-sun.com

34 dead and hundreds missing in Brazil dam collapse


27th January, 2019 09:28:12 printer

34 dead and hundreds missing in Brazil dam collapse


At least 34 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are missing Saturday after a dam burst a day earlier at a Brazilian iron mine, according to the local fire department.


The dam's breach flooded parts of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais with mining debris and mud, which covered the city of Brumadinho, according to footage from CNN affiliate Record TV.


State Gov. Romeu Zema on Saturday declared three days of mourning, according to a release from the government of Minas Gerais. He also thanked all agencies who have come to help during the catastrophe.


Video from the scene showed helicopters hovering feet above the ground as firefighters plucked people from the muck and carried them away.


The latest death toll comes from the Minas Gerais Fire Department, which is conducting search and rescue operations. Of the 34 confirmed dead, the fire department said 22 bodies have been recovered.


Search efforts stopped Saturday at 8 p.m., the fire department said, and will resume Sunday at 4 a.m. The reason for this, the department said, is because of the increased flow of one of the dams being drained to lesson the risk of another possible burst. Also, heavy rains were a problem for rescue aircraft.


The department said it understands the possibility of finding people alive decreases as the hours pass, and it will continue the search until all victims are found.


The civil defense agency and the fire department confirmed 366 people were found and 256 are missing. The fire department also said 23 people are in the hospital and four have been discharged.


Vale, the Brazilian mining giant that manages the Feijao mine, has updated a list online with 251 names of people they have not been able to contact.


The state judiciary also froze more than $260 million from Vale, with a presiding judge citing the company's responsibility for the disaster. The money will be deposited into a judicial account to compensate for any costs to the state as a result of rescue operations or victim support. Minas Gerais state has fined Vale $99 million for damage caused by the dam break and said the money will be used for repairs.


Minister Augusto Heleno, from the Institutional Security Cabinet, and Attorney General André Mendonça held a press conference Saturday to discuss the dam break. Heleno said both municipal and state governments are fully capable of providing assistance during this emergency period.


Heleno confirmed financial aid will be given both directly to the population and the local governments, but he did not elaborate on exact amounts or how funds will be distributed.

Officials said during the press conference the dam that broke was not classified as high-risk. Mendonça said Vale is responsible for the disaster, but the extent of the damage is unknown.


It was made clear during the press conference that the priority now is assisting victims and their families. After that, officials said they'd focus on environmental damage and the mining process.


In an effort to find missing people, the Federal Attorney General's Office obtained an injunction in the Federal Court of Minas Gerais ruling that mobile carriers should provide data from the cell phone signals of people who were in the region where the dam broke.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the scene Saturday morning and met with Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema before returning to the capital.