Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Scores remain missing in aftermath of Brazil dam collapse as authorities warn death toll will rise 'exponentially'

A search for the victims is ongoing. Photo: AP

Brazilian firefighters are picking through treacherous mud in the search for survivors or bodies after a dam collapse that buried an iron mining company's buildings and inundated nearby neighbourhoods with ore waste.

The confirmed death toll rose to 60, with 292 people still missing, according to the fire department in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais.

No one was recovered alive on Sunday, a stark difference from the first two days of the disaster when helicopters whisked people out of the mud.

The death toll is expected to grow "exponentially" on Monday, Minas Gerais fire department said.

Brazilian authorities say that 292 remain missing. Credit: AP

Search efforts were extremely slow because of the treacherous sea of reddish-brown mud that surged out when the mine dam breached on Friday afternoon.

The mud was up 24ft deep in some places, forcing searchers to walk carefully around the edges of the muck or slowly crawl on to it so they would not sink.

Rescue teams on Monday focused their searches on areas around the Vale mining company, where many workers were eating lunch when the dam ruptured.

Vale is the world's largest producer of iron ore, the raw ingredient for making steel. The Brazilian company’s American depository shares plunged 15.8% on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The death toll from the flood currently stands at 60. Credit: AP

Helicopters looking for bodies took off and landed non-stop, while on the ground, dozens of rescuers with tracking dogs were searching for bodies through the mountains of mud.

Rescue efforts were suspended for about 10 hours on Sunday because of fears that a second mine dam in Brumadinho was at risk of failing.

About 24,000 people were told to get to higher ground, but by afternoon civil engineers said the second dam no longer posed a risk.

Areas of water-soaked mud appeared to be drying out, which could help firefighters get to areas previously unreachable, but it was slow going for the search teams and some residents started searching on their own for relatives.

The death toll is expected to rise 'exponentially'. Credit: AP

Throughout the weekend, there was mounting anger at Vale and questions arose about an apparent lack of a warning siren ahead of Friday’s collapse.

Vale said the area has eight sirens, but “the speed in which the event happened made sounding an alarm impossible”.

Senator Renan Calheiros called for Vale’s board of directors to step down and attorney general Raquel Dodge told reporters that its executives could be held responsible.

Over the weekend, courts froze about 3 billion dollars (£2.2 billion) from Vale assets for state emergency services and told the company to report on how it would help victims.

The carpet of mining waste also raised fears of widespread environmental contamination and degradation.