Frantic search for survivors in Brazilian mining dam collapse

World Today

Rescue workers in a helicopter search a flooded area after a dam collapsed in Brumadinho, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. A massive, deadly river of pale brown mud released by the collapse of a mining company dam on Friday threatens to cause an environmental disaster for Brazil, potentially snatching away livelihoods and driving the spread of disease, activists warned Sunday. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

It’s been another terrifying day for residents in a small mining town in eastern Brazil. Scores of residents remain missing and at least 58 have died in the environmental catastrophe.

As CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports, water-soaked mud appears to be drying out, giving rescuers a better chance of finding survivors.

The people in Brumadinho awoke to sirens blaring in the early morning, warning them to get out and seek higher ground. There was fear that another dam owned by Brazil’s mining giant Vale SA could burst.

The bridge, which connects two sides of the city, would be destroyed if another dam collapsed.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of about 3,000 people living in area.

“My house was hit by the mud and destroyed. I lost all I had and then I went to my sister in law’s house. And now, we have been told we also need to leave her place as it in a risk area,” local resident Lareane Pereira said.

Search and rescue operations were temporarily halted because of the heightened risks, much to the dismay of families of victims and of the missing, some of whom staged a protest in front of the Civil Defense operation center.

But by mid-afternoon, the dam was stabilized, as part of the water in the reservoir was drained. This allowed search and rescue teams to resume operations.

The Minas Gerais Fire Department spokesman said they are still looking for survivors, but acknowledges chances are slim.

“Survivors that were isolated have already been removed from the dangerous areas. Now we are working only with the small possibility to find other survivors inside buildings that have been covered by the mud,” Fire Department spokesman Lt. Pedro Ahiara said.

After rain on Saturday, the sky was clear on Sunday in Brumadinho; good news for the rescue workers as the mud began to dry making it easier to reach the locations.

But there was still challenging work ahead for rescue workers to help the survivors, find the bodies of the victims and estimate the environmental damage caused by the disaster.

Adriana Charoux on Brazil dam collapse

The environmental group, Greenpeace, released a statement, claiming the Brazil dam collapse underscores a lack of regulation by the Brazilian government and the mining companies. Adriana Charoux is with Greenpeace-Brazil and she spoke with CGTN’s Wang Guan about why the organization has labeled this incident a crime against the environment.