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At least 34 killed, hundreds missing in Brazil dam collapse

(Xinhua)    08:34, January 28, 2019


Medical staff help a faint woman in a helping center near Brumadinho, the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on Jan. 26, 2019. At least 34 people were killed after a tailings dam owned by mining giant Vale collapsed Friday afternoon in Brazil's southeastern state of Minas Gerais. (Xinhua/Li Ming)

BRUMADINHO, Brazil, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- At least 34 people were killed, and hundreds remain missing after a tailings dam owned by mining giant Vale collapsed Friday afternoon in Brazil's southeastern state of Minas Gerais, the state fire department said.

Out of the 34 victims, eight were identified with two being confirmed as Vale workers.

A total of 46 people were rescued Saturday morning. And 23 of them were injured and taken to local hospitals.

It is estimated that there are at least 252 Vale workers unaccounted for, according to the company, while the number of local residents who have yet to be found remains unknown.

Civil defense officials said there is still hope to find survivors, as helicopters have found some places which were possibly used as shelters.

Search and rescue operations were suspended as night fell in Brumadinho Saturday at 8:00 p.m. local time (2200 GMT).

Vale has received an initial fine of 250 million reals (66 million U.S. dollars) imposed by Brazil's environment protection agency Ibama. In addition, Brazilian courts have blocked 6 billion reals (1.59 billion dollars) in Vale assets in order to ensure payment of compensation.

The Brazilian government has promised a full investigation into the matter. President Jair Bolsonaro and Minas Gerais state Governor Romeu Zema flew over the destroyed region earlier in the day and promised manpower to aid the rescue, and resources to help the region recover.

In November 2015, a tailings dam collapsed in Mariana, Minas Gerais, killing 19 people and causing substantial environmental and economic damage. It was considered the worst environmental disaster in the Brazilian history.


Every two hours during the day, the operation center for families of the victims released new figures: how many have been rescued; how many families have been contacted but still waiting for transportation, and how many of the injured have been taken to hospital.

There were numbers but no names since the authorities need time for identification.

For relatives and friends waiting for news about their loved ones, it was a torture. Some were crying; some fainted in grief coupled with hot weather, and others began to resort to non-official information. They paced anxiously from one desk to another.

As hopes of finding survivors fades, dozens of people were echoing prayers in a facility served as recreational center for Vale workers, some hand in hand, some in small groups and many with crucifiexes in their hands.

Around 11 a.m. local time (1300 GMT), lieutenant Pedro Aihara, spokesperson of the fire department, announced that a bus carrying Vale workers were found partially covered in the sludge and there was no hope for survivors. He did not have any information about the number of the victims and their names to offer.

Condolences were expressed on social media to Estancia Inn, a small hotel to the dam, which was buried by mudslide. According to local residents, there could be around 30 or 35 people, including its owners, employees and guests. There is still no official confirmation.

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(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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