24,000 evacuate amid risk of new Brazil dam burst

Rescue workers searching among the debris on Saturday for hundreds of people missing after a Vale dam burst near Brumadinho in Brazil's Minas Gerais state the day before, unleashing a torrent of mud and burying the miner's facilities and nearby homes
Rescue workers searching among the debris on Saturday for hundreds of people missing after a Vale dam burst near Brumadinho in Brazil's Minas Gerais state the day before, unleashing a torrent of mud and burying the miner's facilities and nearby homes. The confirmed death toll rose to 37 by yesterday morning, the fire department reported.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BRUMADINHO (Brazil) • Firefighters called for the evacuation to higher ground of some 24,000 people from the Brazilian town hit by deadly mud flow from an earlier mining dam rupture, as a second dam threatened to collapse.

Sirens began before dawn yesterday, triggered by dangerous water levels at a tailings dam still standing in the Vale facility near Brumadinho in Minas Gerais state.

The evacuation efforts diverted attention from a search for hundreds of people missing after last Friday's dam burst unleashed a torrent of mud, burying the miner's facilities and nearby homes, according to the fire department.

"Our work is completely focused on the evacuation," Mr Pedro Aihara, a spokesman for the state fire department, said.

The confirmed death toll rose to 37 bodies found by yesterday morning, the fire department reported.

That already makes the disaster more deadly than a 2015 tailings dam collapse at an iron ore mine less than 100km to the east, belonging to Samarco Mineracao, a Vale joint venture with BHP Group.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian judicial authorities have frozen 11 billion reales (S$3.95 billion) in assets of the Vale mining company after the dam collapse.

 
 

The public prosecutor's office of the state of Minas Gerais made the announcement late on Saturday. The order said the firm's real estate and vehicles would be seized if it could not come up with the full amount.

The company also has been hit with fines by the federal and state government totalling some US$92.5 million.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2019, with the headline '24,000 evacuate amid risk of new Brazil dam burst'. Print Edition | Subscribe