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134 dead and 199 missing in Brazil dam collapse

5th February 2019
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Rescuers admit finding all the bodies under layers of toxic mud may not be possible

M y heart goes out to the families of those victims who were killed in southeast Brazil last month. According to reports, the death toll has risen to 134 with more than 199 still missing.

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

The tragedy occurred on January 25 when a dam collapsed near the town of Brumadinho in Minas Gerais. Shocking footage emerged shortly after showing a wave of mining waste sweeping across everything in its path, including the mine company's canteen and neighbouring buildings. The tailings, which reportedly contain high levels of iron oxide, covered 623 acres of Brumadinho and the Paraopeba River. The wave of toxic mud is moving towards the Sao Francisco river, which could also become contaminated.

The mine company, Vale SA, said the residues did not have dangerous levels of metals, but experts have warned that the impact on the environment could be irreversible.

A spokesman for the local fire authority told the media that it was possible not all bodies would be located and recovered. But he said that efforts would continue - for "four, five or six months", if necessary - until that decision was made.

January 25th's disaster comes three years after a similar dam collapse in the same region. That was part-owned by Vale, NDTV reports. Fewer people died but it was described as Brazil's worst environmental disaster because the waste allegedly ruined ecosystems along hundreds of miles of waterways.

I will provide an update about this story if and when one becomes possible.