Death toll in Brazil dam collapse rises to 60; 292 missing

By Renzo Pipoli and Darryl Coote
Firefighters search Monday for victims of the dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo by Antonio Lacerda/ EPA EFE
Firefighters search Monday for victims of the dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil. Photo by Antonio Lacerda/ EPA EFE

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The death toll from a dam collapse at a Brazilian iron mine climbed Monday to 60 people, officials said, and nearly 300 are missing.

Of the confirmed dead, only 19 have been identified. Authorities have rescued nearly 200 people, but 292 remain missing, G1 Globo reported. A team of 135 Israeli military are aiding in the rescue efforts in Belo Horizonte, about 390 miles from Brasilia.


Golan Vach, a colonel who leads the Israeli troops, said sonar equipment able to detect bodies as deep as 13 feet underground will be used try to find the missing.

Authorities said the death toll will likely rise further. The remains of a bus have been uncovered but it's not known how many people were inside, Flavio Godinho, a lieutenant colonel with the civil defense in Minas Gerais, said.

Vale, the world's largest iron ore supplier, said in a statement Monday regional judges have "granted attachments" on company accounts for up to $2.9 billion, and ordered the company take action to stabilize dams of the Corrego do Feijao mine and help those affected.

Vale also said it faces two sanctions from regulators, one worth about $66 million and another $27 million. The company said it's creating two committees -- one to support victims and the recovery and another to investigate cause and responsibility. It's also suspended shareholder remuneration, and the variable remuneration payment for executives.


Folha de Sao Paulo quoted Sergio Bermudes, identified as a main Vale attorney, as saying "there was not negligence, recklessness or incompetence."

"The diverse factors that could cause a dam to collapse are various and they will now be the object of technical considerations."

Vale shares declined Monday on the Sao Paulo stock exchange. By afternoon, it had fallen more than 23 percent and was the most traded stock of the day. Only losses by Bradespar, which holds a significant volume of Vale shares, were greater at nearly 24 percent.

U.S. Department of State spokesperson Robert Palladino offered condolences to the victims late Monday and said the U.S. "stands ready to assist the Brazilian government in any way possible."

"Our hearts are with the Brazilian people in this terrible moment," he said.

Nineteen people died in 2015 in a similar mining disaster in Minas Gerais. That dam was also administrated by Vale, along with Australian mining company BHP Billiton.

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