Search resumes for survivors of Brazil dam collapse

  • 08/11/2015

Rescuers are searching for a third day at the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggle to pin down the number of dead and missing.

Some two dozen people remain unaccounted for, but so far just one person has been confirmed dead, as hundreds of firefighters, soldiers and civil defence workers probed the disaster scene for signs of life.

The tragedy occurred when waste reservoirs at the partly Australian-owned Samarco iron ore mine burst open, unleashing a sea of muck that flattened the nearby village of Bento Rodrigues on Thursday (local time).

Since then, the tidal wave of sludge has continued its destructive advance, levelling a neighbourhood and the main plaza in the town Barra Longa 60km away but causing no loss of life there, a spokesman for the mayor's office told AFP.

Families of the missing, meanwhile, were desperately seeking news of their loved ones, amid widely disparate official information.

Authorities have given contradictory tolls of the dead and missing in and around the village of Bento Rodrigues.

But there have been varying casualty counts from jurisdictions in and near the disaster zone.

The mayor of Mariana, the nearest city in the state of Minas Gerais, said his town's official toll now stands at one dead and 12 missing, all of them mine workers - revising an earlier toll of 13 missing.

He said however that an undetermined number of people remain unaccounted for in nearby Bento Rodrigues, a village with a population of about 620.

"There is only one confirmed death so far, but it is logical that (the number) will surely rise," Mayor Duarte Goncalves Junior said.

Samarco is jointly owned by BHP Billiton and Vale of Brazil.