Rescue efforts suspended in Brazil dam collapse amid fears of another rupture
Authorities in Brazil on Sunday suspended rescue efforts for potential survivors from a devastating dam collapse over fears of a further breach.
Alarms sounded early on Sunday near Brumadinho, Brazil signaling dangerously high water levels at a nearby dam within the same complex of the one that ruptured on Friday,killing at least 40 and leaving more than 300 missing, Sky News reported. Heavy rains are said to have put an additional strain on the second dam, and nearly 24,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in case it erupts.
The dams are owned and operated by Brazil’s largest iron ore company Vale SA. When the dam burst on Friday, it buried residents below in runoff mud and sand from the mine, and many who perished were workers at the mine itself.
As rescue efforts enter the third day, hope is waning and emotions are high as the possibility of finding survivors dwindles.
“I’m angry. There is no way I can stay calm,” said Sonia Fatima da Silva, whose son worked at the Vale mining company for 20 years. “My hope is that they be honest. I want news, even if it’s bad.”
Emergency responders rushed to the area after the collapse, which took place as miners were eating their lunch on Friday. Videos from the scene showed helicopters pulling locals from the mud to safety.
The mine waste, called tailings, is generally just made up of sand and is non-toxic. Simone Pedrosa, 45, described watching the avalanche of tailings cascade down the dam as she and her family escaped to higher ground.
“I saw all the mud coming down the hill, snapping the trees as it descended. It was a tremendous noise,” she said. “I cannot get that noise out of my head. It’s a trauma … I’ll never forget,” she continued.
Some residents are calling the break a result of negligence on the part of Vale, who administer another dam in the same state as Bruamdinho, Minas Gerais, which ruptured in 2015. Nineteen people were killed and hundreds were displaced from their homes, in what was previously considered the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.
Hours after the incident on Friday, stocks in Vale fell ten percent on the New York Stock Exchange.