Hundreds missing and several confirmed dead after dam collapse in Brazil


A collapse of a disused dam at an iron-ore mine complex in southeast Brazil has killed at least nine people and left 300 missing, local firefighters said early Saturday.

Local Mayor Avimar de Melo Barcelos told TV channel GloboNews that rescuers had found the bodies of seven people swept away by the burst tailings dam.

Vale chief executive Fabio Schvartsman said the dam that burst on Friday at the iron mine was being decommissioned and its capacity was about a fifth of the total waste spilled at Samarco.

The Minas Gerais state fire department also said 23 people have been hospitalized after the dam released a torrent of mud on Friday, leaving a roughly 150-meter-wide (500-foot-wide) wake of destruction. USA -listed shares of Vale closed 8 percent lower on Friday.

The grim images were taken by spotters on one of the dozen or so helicopters that flew over the area to survey the disaster zone and aid the rescue teams.

Vale said there were employees in the administrative buildings of the dam that were covered by the surge of mud and water and there could be casualties in that area.

The dam, owned by mining firm Vale SA, partially collapsed on Friday, sending torrents of mud and sludge into the forest and villages below.

Another dam administered by Vale and Australian mining company BHP Billiton collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, in 2015, resulting in 19 deaths and dislocating hundreds from their homes.

Schvartsman said what happened Friday was "a human tragedy much larger than the tragedy of Mariana, but probably the environmental damage will be less". Vale ended up paying a USA $1.8 billion fine.

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In the statement, the fire service said it was confirming "the disappearance of approximately 200 people" after the collapse.

The status of the workers and others in the city of Brumadinho was unknown Saturday, but the level of devastation quickly led President Jair Bolsonaro and other officials to describe it as a "tragedy".

That was considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history, with 60 million cubic meters of waste flooding rivers and eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean.

Horses struggle in the mud in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, Brazil after a dam burst.

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.

Feijao alone produced 7.8 million tonnes of ore in 2017.

Rescue crew work at the scene where a tailings dam burst at a mine owned by Brazilian mining firm Vale SA.

"Three years after the serious environmental crime in Mariana, with investigations still ongoing and no one punished, history repeats itself as tragedy in Brumadinho", Silva said on Twitter.

Schvartsman declined to comment on how output would be affected.