Search for missing after Brazilian dams burst
MARIANA, Brazil: Casualties from two collapsed dams at a Brazilian iron ore mine mounted yesterday as rescue teams worked to find dozens missing in mudslides that devastated a village in the country’s southeast.
A spokesman for firefighters leading the rescue confirmed at least two deaths and 30 injuries, but said the count was likely to rise as the search advanced slowly after mudslides knocked out roads and cell towers.
“In reality there are a lot more, but we can’t confirm any more than that,” said firefighter Adão Severino Junior in the nearby city of Mariana.
The local hospital was “saturated” and victims arriving by helicopter were being sent to nearby Ouro Preto.
The head of emergency planning at Samarco, the joint venture company that runs the mine, told GloboNews of reports of seismic activity in the area in the hour leading up to the incident.
The collapse paralysed operations at the mine, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, the world’s top iron ore miners, and raised fears of an expensive cleanup.
Shares of Vale were off 4.3 percent in Sao Paulo trading and BHP Billiton dropped 7.6 percent in London.
Analysts at Clarksons Platou Securities said yesterday that the likelihood of a lengthy stoppage at the Germano mine, which accounts for about onefifth of seaborne pellet market, could lift iron ore prices. Samarco produces 30 million tons a year of pellet, used to make steel.
Pellet prices have plunged by one-third this year to their lowest in six years.
Television footage from the scene showed the village of Bento Rodrigues devastated after mudslides unleashed waste water when the dams collapsed, flattening trees, tearing roofs off homes and leaving a car perched on top of a wall.
Hundreds of families were evacuated after escaping to higher ground, Duarte Junior, the mayor of Mariana, told TV channel GloboNews after declaring a state of emergency.
BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie said at a news conference overnight that a full assessment of casualties and damage was hampered by darkness, coming a few hours after the dam burst on Thursday.
Samarco officials said yesterday the Santarém dam in the Germano complex had collapsed along with the rupturing of the Fundão dam on Thursday. The firm said it was too early to know the reasons for the disaster. – Reuters