BRUMADINHO, Brazil – The death toll in the collapse of a tailings dam of iron-ore giant Vale has risen to 34, firefighters reported this Saturday as they search for survivors under heavy rains.
A Vale dam at an iron mine in the Brumadinho municipality of the southeastern state of Minas Gerais collapsed on Friday and a flood of mine waste, mud and water buried company installations and a number of homes in rural areas.
A total of 84 people were unable to return home and 23 have been admitted to hospitals, according to the same sources.
Dozens of teams are working against the clock in the region to rescue the nearly 300 people who have gone missing, though it remains unknown how many of them are still alive, so the work could possibly go on for several weeks.
Meanwhile, the families of the missing Vale workers and of people who were living in the region have gathered at a rural emergency center to seek information about their loved ones.
The Brazilian government set up a crisis Cabinet and President Jair Bolsonaro flew over the affected area Saturday in a helicopter.
On social networks he said his government will “do everything in its power” to “see that justice is done” and to “prevent new tragedies.”
Just over three years ago, a similar tailings dam collapse at a mine jointly owned by Vale and Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP in Mariana, a municipality about 120 kilometers (75 miles) away, killed 19 people and caused Brazil’s worst-ever environmental catastrophe.
But Friday’s collapse of the dam at the Feijao mine in Brumadinho has left almost twice that number of fatalities.
Bolsonaro also confirmed that he has accepted the aid offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in the next few hours will send a special mission to collaborate in the rescue work.
The Minas Gerais government has decreed a state of public disaster in Brumadinho, a town located some 4 kilometers (2˝ miles) from the large open-air museum of Inhotim, which every day receives dozens of tourists from all over the world.