UPDATE 7-Search ongoing for missing in Brazil mine disaster, death toll uncertain

viernes 6 de noviembre de 2015 21:59 GYT

(Updates first paragraph with co-ownership company names)

By Stephen Eisenhammer

BENTO RODRIGUES, Brazil Nov 6 (Reuters) - Rescuers 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 co-owned by the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd, and the world's largest iron ore miner, Vale SA.

While only one worker has been confirmed dead, the local governor said the mining disaster caused the most environmental damage of any in the state's history. It could cost the mine's owners a fortune to clean up and repair.

Walls of water filled with mining waste cascaded downhill when the dams burst on Thursday, engulfing the village of Bento Rodrigues and its 600 residents in a sea of mud while also flooding others far removed from the open-pit mine.

Little remains of the village but ruined walls and cars lying twisted in sludge. Search helicopters buzzed overhead as rescuers tried to save a horse trapped in the mud.

"I heard screaming and saw the water coming fast, about 15 to 20 meters high (49-66 feet)," said survivor Antonio Santos, a construction worker who was at home when the dams broke. Bento Rodrigues is about 93 miles (150 km) southeast of Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third-largest city and the capital of the mining state of Minas Gerais.

"Within 10 minutes the whole lower part of the village was destroyed, about 80 percent of it," he said in a gymnasium crowded with survivors in the nearby city of Mariana.

Santos said he knew of four people who were swept away, including two children and two adults in their 50s.   Continuación...