Brazil dam collapse: Death toll rises to 58

BRUMADINHO, JAN 29 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 1/28/2019 12:17:19 PM IST

Firefighters on Monday carefully moved over treacherous mud, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling, in search of survivors or bodies, four days after a dam collapse that buried mine buildings and surrounding neighbourhoods with iron ore waste.

The confirmed death toll rose to 58, with up to 300 people still missing, authorities said. In an ominous sign, nobody was recovered alive Sunday, a stark difference from the first two days of the disaster, when helicopters were whisking people from the mud.

The slow speed of search efforts was due to the treacherous sea of reddish-brown mud that surged out when the mine dam breached Friday afternoon. 

It is up 24 feet (8 metres) deep in some places, and to avoid the danger of sinking and drowning searchers had to carefully walk around the edges or slowly crawl out onto the muck.

Firefighting officials said Monday they had identified a bus believed to be filled with bodies and had worked through the night trying to get through the mud.

Flavio Godinho, a spokesman with the civil defence of the state of Minas Gerais, told the G1 news portal that the bus was near the dam that collapsed, but that it was too soon to say how many might be inside.

Rescue efforts were suspended about 10 hours Sunday because of fears that a second mine dam in the southeastern city of Brumadinho was at risk of failing. An estimated 24,000 people were told to get to higher ground, but by afternoon civil engineers said the second dam was no longer at risk.

Areas of water-soaked mud appeared to be drying out, which could help firefighters get to areas previously unreachable. Still, it was slow going for the search teams, and residents were on edge.

“Get out searching!” a woman yelled at firefighters near a refuge set up in the centre of Brumadinho. “They could be out there in the bush.”

Brazilian searchers were poised to get reinforcements on Monday, when more than 100 Israeli soldiers and other personnel were set to join the efforts.

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