Brazil Dam Disaster: 60 People Are Dead, With Hundreds More Missing

Brazil Dam Disaster: 60 People Are Dead, With Hundreds More Missing

https://n.pr/2CMG7WB

The Vale mining company says that Dam I of the Córrego de Feijão mine was more than 280 feet high and 2,360 feet wide, holding a volume of 11.7 million cubic meters. The ruined mine near Brumadinho, Brazil, is seen here in a satellite photo from Jan. 26.

DigitalGlobe / Maxar/Reuters


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DigitalGlobe / Maxar/Reuters

Search crews are looking for up to 300 missing people in southeastern Brazil, after a dam near an iron mine collapsed and released a deluge of muddy waste that swallowed part of a town. Since Friday’s collapse, the death toll has risen to 60, according to Brazilian media outlets that cite the fire bridge. As rescue operations go on, the mine’s owner is also under scrutiny for its safety practices.

“Authorities say many of the missing are likely buried deep in mud,” Catherine Osborn reports for NPR’s Newsdesk from Brumadinho.

Fears that a second dam might collapse nearby forced a new evacuation and the suspension of search efforts late Sunday. But the delicate work continued after water and sludge was pumped out, and the all-clear was given.

When that potential risk spiked on Sunday, a siren blared an alert, further unsettling thousands of residents. But it seems that the public may have received little or no public warning of Friday’s unfolding catastrophe.

The Vale mining company tells the Associated Press there are eight sirens in the area around the dam that failed — but that “the speed in which the event happened made sounding an alarm impossible” on Friday.

Recalling the sudden collapse of a dam holding more than 3 billion gallons of mud and water, mine worker Luiz Castro told Osborn that he had been taking iron ore to a grinding machine when he heard a loud noise, like the sound of giant truck wheels exploding.

Turning, Castro saw what he calls a “mountain of mud” sweeping down on the building where he worked. He ran for his life.

The mine waste and mud had been held back by Dam I of the Córrego de Feijão mine, a structure that Vale says was more than 280 feet high and 2,360 feet wide. The company says the dam on the outskirts of Brumadinho had surpassed safety standards when it was inspected in June and September of last year.

Satellite images of the area show a dramatically redrawn landscape. Below the dam, where dense tree cover, buildings and small ponds once stood, the area is now covered in rust-colored muck.

Rescuers search for vicitms near the town of Brumadinho, in the state of Minas Gerias, southeastern Brazil, three days after the collapse of a dam at an iron-ore mine belonging to Brazil’s giant mining company Vale.

Mauro Pimentel /AFP/Getty Images


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Rescuers search for vicitms near the town of Brumadinho, in the state of Minas Gerias, southeastern Brazil, three days after the collapse of a dam at an iron-ore mine belonging to Brazil’s giant mining company Vale.

Mauro Pimentel /AFP/Getty Images

The red mud has reached the Paraopeba River in the center of Brumadinho, reports O Globo, which adds that according to the locals, the river had been known for having the most fish in the Paraopeba Valley, an area bracketed by several mountain ranges.

As nearby residents grapple with the scope of the tragedy, legal proceedings against Vale are already under way. Two government agencies have hit the company with sanctions over the mine collapse. And over the weekend, judges issued preliminary injunctions that froze nearly $3 billion of Vale’s accounts to preserve money for potential payments for victims, reparations and other costs.

Vale bills itself as the world’s largest iron ore and nickel producer, and it’s a powerful force in Minas Gerais, a state well-known for its mines. But residents there are voicing their anger at the company, blaming it for Friday’s collapse and questioning whether Vale did enough to improve its safety protocols after a similar collapse killed 19 people in 2015.

“It was negligence — and it was a crime,” resident Dilce Almeida tells Osborn. A retired clothing vendor who said she spent the weekend trying to learn the fate of her nephew, Andre.

Ibama, Brazil’s ministry of the environment, imposed a fine of 250 million reais ($66 million) on Vale on Saturday, saying it was guilty of five different infractions, from causing life-threatening pollution to releasing mining tailings into water resources. A state agency in Minas Gerais added its own fine of nearly 100 million reais.

But as the disaster’s toll continues to rise, residents and a relief official are calling for the government to improve how it manages the risk of dams collapsing at Brazil’s mines.

“Federal officials have pledged to make mining regulations more strict,” Osborn reports. “But for many, this disaster has laid bare the difference between pledges and enforcement.”

Superforest

via Environment : NPR https://n.pr/2iBXQGl

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