Footage reveals horrors of Brazil dam collapse

Author
Adrianna Zappavigna, news.com.au,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Sunday, 3 February 2019, 10:07a.m.

New footage shows the moment a dam collapsed in southern Brazil, releasing a torrent of toxic sludge, as hopes of finding survivors wane.

A week after the deadly collapse of a mining dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, shocking new footage of the incident has emerged.

Dramatic pictures, obtained by Brazilian TV station Bandeirantes, show the moment neighbouring buildings, farmland and parts of the town of Brumadinho were swallowed by muddy sludge in the disaster that has so far claimed more than 100 lives.

A satellite image shows mud flooding an area days after the dam collapsed, near Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo / AP

A satellite image shows mud flooding an area days after the dam collapsed, near Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo / AP

While it's unclear what caused the dam to collapse, an investigation is under way.

The collapse is the second incident of its kind to occur at one of Vale SA's mines in the past three years. Five arrests have been made, and prosecutors in Brazil revealed three of those arrested were Vale officials.

Their responsibilities are believed to include dealing with environmental impact licences.

Vale, the world's biggest producer of iron ore and nickel, said it was co-operating with prosecutors.

At the time of collapse on January 25, 1pm local time, residents claim the alarm system the company had installed to warn residents of any risk didn't go off.

Vale said the instrument used to measure dam pressure had not detected any problems.

Dozens of people were left trapped in mud and had to be evacuated by helicopter.

The casualty figure as of Thursday evening was 110 confirmed dead and 238 missing.

Dozens have paid homage to the victims and those still missing.

A rescue helicopter transports a body found during a search and recovery effort. Photo / AP

A rescue helicopter transports a body found during a search and recovery effort. Photo / AP

A ceremony was held at the site of the disaster about 1pm on Friday local time, the hour at which the dam breached on January 25, unleashing a destructive torrent of reddish-brown mining waste.

Backhoes stopped digging in the mud, and rescuers looking for survivors in the thick mine tailings all looked to the sky as 10 fire department and police helicopters released flower petals on the iron ore mining complex. A priest also gave a brief mass in front of a tall pink cross that had been planted in the mud.


A spokesman for the Minas Gerais Fire Department said after the ceremony authorities were not calling off the search for bodies, although no one had been found alive since Saturday.

Waste residue spread by the dam's collapse containing potentially toxic levels of iron oxide has plastered 252 hectares of the Brumadinho and the Paraopeba River.

With hopes of finding survivors dwindling, talk of how to deal with the 12 million cubic metres of mud released is escalating.

Vale SA, the company that ran and operated the dam, claimed the residues did not have dangerous levels of metals, but experts argue the impact on the environment could be irreversible.

Friends and relatives hold signs with the names of victims, during a march paying homage to the victims of the mining dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo / AP

Friends and relatives hold signs with the names of victims, during a march paying homage to the victims of the mining dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo / AP

Authorities and environmental organisations have begun testing water quality around the mining complex, while Brazil's state and federal authorities have told residents not to use water directly from the Paraopeba or 100m around it.

The Paraopeba River flows into the much larger Sao Francisco River, which could also be contaminated.

Hundreds of municipalities and larger cities such as Petrolina, 1400km from Brumadinho, get drinking water from the Sao Francisco River.