UPDATE 4-Two dozen missing in vast mudflow of Brazil mine disaster

sábado 7 de noviembre de 2015 16:06 GYT
 

(Updates with number of people missing, company comment on dams, safety)

By Stephen Eisenhammer

MARIANA, Brazil Nov 7 (Reuters) - Rescue teams on Saturday struggled to reach villages devastated by a massive mudflow after two dams burst at a major Brazilian mine, wreaking havoc more than 80 km (50 miles) downstream and prompting officials to warn of a higher death toll.

A dozen residents of nearby villages remain missing, along with 13 workers from the mine, but only one death has been confirmed in what the governor of mineral-rich Minas Gerais described as the state's worst environmental disaster.

"The death toll will rise for sure ... The number of missing will rise because we're talking to the residents of Bento (Rodrigues) and some people still aren't accounted for," Duarte Júnior, mayor of the nearby city of Mariana, told reporters.

City officials released a partial list of missing people, including three children, ages 4 to 7, and a 60-year-old woman from the village, which was swamped by mudslides within a half hour of public warnings.

The mine's operator, Samarco, is co-owned by the world's largest mining company BHP Billiton Ltd and the biggest iron ore miner Vale SA . Clean-up and repairs along miles of flooded river could cost the companies a fortune.

A state public prosecutor based in Mariana said on Saturday he will seek 500,000 Brazilian reais ($130,000) in personal damages for each of about 200 families most affected by the dam burst.

While it is still unclear what caused the collapses, Samarco said Saturday that workers were doing normal scheduled work on one of the dams to increase its size when it burst, sweeping them away in the flood.   Continuación...