RIO DE JANEIRO – Nineteen more bodies were found on Tuesday amid the sludge of mine waste, mud and water that buried homes and vehicles in the southeastern Brazilian town of Brumadinho when a tailings dam failed, raising the death toll from the tragedy to 84, authorities said.
The list of the number of people missing in the disaster was pared from 279 to 276.
The spokesman for the Minas Gerais state fire department, Lt. Pedro Aihara, said that three of the bodies were found among the wreckage of a bus submerged by last Friday’s spill.
The mine in Brumadinho is owned by Brazil’s Vale, the world’s largest iron-ore producer.
Two other bodies were found Tuesday in an area experts feel is the most likely spot for finding the remains of people who were having lunch in the complex’s cafeteria at the time of the tragedy.
Most of the victims were Vale employees.
Experts have managed to identify 41 of the 84 sets of remains found so far.
Firefighters said that since they began searching for victims on Friday they have managed to rescue 192 people alive and to locate 391 who initially had been considered missing.
Five people were arrested Tuesday on charges of altering the safety audit of the tailings dam.
“We searched the home of two engineers who worked for an outsourcing company that works for Vale and confiscated documents that will be analyzed in Minas Gerais,” said police precinct chief Nico Goncalves, the official in charge of the arrests.
The two suspects arrested in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, are engineers who did not work directly for Vale but rather for a subsidiary of German company TUV SUD, hired by the mining company.
The other three people were employed directly by Vale and were taken into custody in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais.
TUV SUD, based in Munich, is a technical safety regulator for industrial installations. The company’s Brazilian affiliate said Tuesday that it carried out a review of the Vale tailings dam in July 2018 and a regular safety inspection in September.
Vale has been hit with two fines: one from the Brazilian Environmental Institute for 250 milllion reais ($67.5 million) and the other from the Minas Gerais state government for 99 million reais ($26.7 million).
The courts have also frozen 12 billion reais ($3.18 billion) of Vale funds to guarantee the payment of compensation to victims, environmental restoration and other recovery efforts.
The federal government also ordered inspections of all mining dams in the country.