Search for miss­ing af­ter Brazil­ian dams burst

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

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

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