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Brazil dam disaster death toll rises to 134, with 199 still missing

Those listed as missing are presumed dead, but not yet located under the layers of muddy mining waste.

The scene of the incident
The scene of the incident
Image: Rodney Costa/dpa via PA Images

THE DEATH TOLL from a dam collapse at a mine in southeast Brazil has risen to 134 after more than a week of searches, with 199 missing, according to authorities.

The count showed the gradual recovery operation of bodies more than a week after the 25 January disaster at the dam, owned by Brazilian mining giant Vale, near the town of Brumadinho.

Those listed as missing are presumed dead, but not yet located under the layers of muddy mining waste released when the tailings dam broke apart. Almost all the victims were workers at the mine.

A fire services spokesman said it was possible that not all the bodies would be located and recovered.

“After a while, because of the decomposition of the bodies, it becomes impossible to recover the remains. But until that moment comes, even if we have to stay four, five or six months, the fire offices will work without stopping,” he said.

Brazil: Tragedy in Brumadinho MG Firefighters during operation in area affected by the rupture of the tailings dam in Brumadinho Source: Diego Baravelli via PA Images

The disaster occurred three years after a similar dam collapse tragedy at another mine in the same region which was part-owned by Vale.

That 2015 incident, close to the town of Mariana, had a lower death toll of 19, but was considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster because the mining waste released ravaged whole ecosystems along hundreds of kilometres of waterways.

President Jair Bolsonaro, in a statement read to Congress as he recovered in hospital from abdominal surgery, said excessive regulation of Brazil’s mining industry was partly to blame for the Brumadinho dam collapse.

“The government has dozens of overlapping monitoring structures which stop people producing but didn’t prevent the Brumadinho tragedy,” he said.

“It’s not with bigger government that we are going to solve these problems, but with more efficient government,” he said.

© – AFP, 2019

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