Since the disaster – one of the worst in Brazil’s history – took place nine months ago, search-and-rescue teams have been tirelessly looking for those who went missing that day.
The death toll in a catastrophic dam collapse that took place in southeastern Brazil in January rose to 250 on Monday after rescue teams announced they had found the remains of another victim.
Brazilian authorities are still searching for 20 missing people related to the disaster, which occurred on Jan. 25 in the city of Brumadinho – located in the state of Minas Gerais, some 770 kilometers to the southeast of Brasilia – according to the latest information provided by the Civil Defense agency.
The newly-identified victim worked as an operations technician for Vale, the Brazilian mining giant that owns the dam that collapsed and generated a huge avalanche of mud and mineral residue that destroyed everything in its path.
Built in 1976, the dam supposedly had the capacity to store nearly 13 million cubic meters of sludge made up of water and iron ore tailings.
The powerful mudflow that resulted from the structure’s collapse razed the mine’s administrative area to the ground, including farms, houses, roads and a cantina.
Since then, search-and-rescue teams have been tirelessly looking for the people who disappeared.
“Once the rainy season starts, we will have to draw up other strategies, but we have no intention of stopping,” Fabio Daldegan, a lieutenant colonel at the regional fire department, told local media.
Two weeks ago, Brazilian police pressed charges against 13 employees of Vale – the world’s top iron ore miner and exporter – and of the German consultancy group TÜV Süd for their alleged responsibility in the disaster.
The workers of the two companies stand accused of forging the dam’s security certificate and ignoring warnings about the dam’s structural integrity.
In February, an internal report leaked that appeared to show that Vale knew the Brumadinho dam was at a “heightened risk of failure” and breached the company’s safety guidelines.
One day after the collapse, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources said it would impose a fine of 250 million reais (US$60.15 million) on Vale.
In July, Vale reached an agreement with the public prosecutor’s office to compensate the families of workers who died in the disaster.
According to the terms of that deal, spouses, children and parents of the deceased workers will each receive 700,000 reais (about US$186,368) and a monthly pension up to the age of 75.
The deal also established that spouses and children under the age of 25 will receive private medical assistance paid by the company.
Siblings of deceased workers, meanwhile, will receive about US$39,936 in moral damages.
For the surviving workers, it was established that they will have a three-year job guarantee, including those who provided services through third-party contractors.
In addition, a monthly childcare allowance of about US$245 was set for each child under the age of three and a monthly grant of about $266 for those studying up to the age of 25.