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19 Still Missing After Brazilian Dam Collapse Floods Town With Toxic Mud

Brazilian dam

Days after the collapse of two Brazilian dams at an iron ore mine, authorities are still uncertain of the cause.

Nine people are now confirmed dead, and a further 19 remain accounted for as it is assumed they were swept away in the torrent.

A huge mud flow and flood followed the rupture of the dams on 5 November. Residue from the iron ore mine flooded downstream for a 100 kilometers, creating a river of toxic red mud that engulfed a nearby town.

The slow-moving tide of toxic iron-ore residue is now oozing downriver, polluting the water supply of hundreds of thousands of residents as it makes its way to the ocean.

Reuters reports:

The disaster in the mineral-rich southeastern state of Minas Gerais, directly north of Rio de Janeiro, has prompted a rescue and salvage operation involving about 500 people, many of whom are still searching with the help of dogs and special equipment for victims along the floodplain downstream from the dams.

Authorities late Sunday recovered two more corpses of possible victims that if confirmed would raise the death toll so far to four. Of the 28 people listed as missing late Sunday, 13 were mine workers.

The intensity of the destruction, with flooding and mud as far as 100 km (60 miles) away from the mine, has meant a slow and laborious rescue effort. It has also sparked calls by government officials, environmentalists and outraged residents for Brazil to rethink regulation of the mining industry, one of the country’s biggest and a leading source of export revenue.

“We have to learn the lessons of this accident,” said Fernando Pimentel, the state governor, in comments to reporters after a flyover of the devastation on Sunday. “Obviously, this wasn’t enough,” he added, referring to the existing regulatory framework.

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Edmondo Burr

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