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News > Latin America

Massive Mudslide Covers Brazilian Town Killing Over 15

  • Local officials in Bento Rodrigues say up to 2,000 people have been affected by the massive mudslide.

    Local officials in Bento Rodrigues say up to 2,000 people have been affected by the massive mudslide. | Photo: EFE

Published 7 November 2015

Rescue workers are desperately searching for dozens of other workers and local residents buried in an avalanche of mud and mining waste.

Rescue efforts in Brazil continued this Saturday after a small quake caused a deadly mudslide that has covered the town of Bento Rodrigues almost completely killing at least 15 people and disappearing over 60, according to local reports. So far, firefighters and other workers have rescued 500 survivors.

The southern community of Bento is a small mining town and according to officials the mudslide was caused by serious damages to two containers of mining waste that caused the ensuing avalanche of mud.

The southern Brazilian mining town of Bento Rodrigues was almost completely drowned in mud. | Photo: Reuters

The regional governor of Minas Gerais, Fernando Pimentel, said that the company Samarco – responsible for the mining waste dumps – had confirmed 16 of its employees were missing.

The head of the Mariana miners’ union, Valerio Vieira dos Santos, said about 15 miners were killed in the incident and 45 more were unaccounted for.

Regarding local population, reports have only said various people are missing.

Bento Rodriguez is located about 60 miles from Belo Horizonte and according to local officials it has a population of about 600 people. They said the majority of the 200 homes in Bento were destroyed.

However, the mayor's office said up to 2,000 people could have been affected by the massive mud current that came down from the nearby mountainous region.

The mine is owned by BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company.

Rescue teams searched through mud and debris on Friday for people still missing from a village devastated by the collapse of two dams at a Brazilian mine owned by the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, which is Anglo-Australian.

Pimentel said the disaster has caused the worst environmental damage in the state's history and said it will cost the Melbourne-based company a “fortune to clean-up and repair.”

Survivor of the mudslide Antonio Santos said, "I heard screaming and saw the water coming fast, about 15 to 20 meters high (49-66 feet). Within 10 minutes the whole lower part of the village was destroyed, about 80 percent of it."

A lawyer specializing in environmental and mining cases said, according to Reuters, it was too early to estimate the financial setback for the mining company, since the cause of the disaster was still being investigated.

"It impossible to calculate now, but it is not going to be cheap," said Danilo Miranda, of the Marcelo Tostes law firm.

A Minas Gerais state prosecutor in charge of environmental crimes, Carlos Ferreira Pinto, said he would seek a temporary suspension of Samarco's license on Monday.
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