Death toll rises to 121 in Brazil dam collapse

Brumadinho residents holding a memorial service on Saturday for victims of the deadly dam collapse on Jan 25. Virtually all of the 121 dead and 226 missing were workers at the iron ore mine, buried under an avalanche of sludgy mining waste when the d
Brumadinho residents holding a memorial service on Saturday for victims of the deadly dam collapse on Jan 25. Virtually all of the 121 dead and 226 missing were workers at the iron ore mine, buried under an avalanche of sludgy mining waste when the dam collapsed above the mine. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUMADINHO, Brazil • The toll from a dam collapse last week at a mine in south-east Brazil has risen to 121 dead and 226 missing, according to officials.

The emergency service for the state of Minas Gerais, where the Jan 25 disaster occurred near the town of Brumadinho, said the search was ongoing for bodies.

All those listed as missing are presumed dead, with no survivors being found over the past week.

Virtually all those who died and were missing were workers at the iron ore mine, buried under an avalanche of sludgy mining waste when the dam collapsed above the facility's cafeteria and main administrative area.

It was the second dam disaster in three years at a mine owned by Brazilian mining giant Vale.

The authorities have frozen more than US$3 billion (S$4.05 billion) in company assets in anticipation that it will pay damages, compensation and fines.

Brazil's Solicitor-General said on Saturday that Vale needs to change its behaviour, cooperate more with the authorities and be more transparent. "There has been a behaviour of resistance to complying with obligations and we need effective cooperation, not only in words, but in gestures, in acts, that demonstrate responsibility for what happened," Mr Andre Mendonca said.

"We need to have an effective assumption by Vale of its responsibility for the event... So, we expect effective, quick responses from Vale regarding the disaster."

He added that Vale's actions had not improved since the deadly tailings dam collapse in 2015 - the Samarco project that it jointly-owned with BHP Billiton.

In a statement later, the Solicitor-General's office said all of the costs associated with tragedy incurred by the federal government would be charged to Vale.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2019, with the headline 'Death toll rises to 121 in Brazil dam collapse'. Print Edition | Subscribe