UPDATE 1-Brazil mine dam burst endangers water supply far downstream

lunes 9 de noviembre de 2015 19:16 GYT

(Adds comments from prosecutors, mayor, environmental authority, Vale on output impact)

By Stephen Eisenhammer and Marta Nogueira

BENTO RODRIGUES, Brazil Nov 9 (Reuters) - A river of mud from burst dams at a Brazilian iron ore mine forced populous cities more than 300 km (200 miles) downstream to cut off drinking water on Monday, raising health and environmental concerns as slow-moving search efforts continued.

Twenty-five people are still missing after one of the worst mining disasters in Brazil's history. Officials confirmed two deaths since Thursday's tragedy and are working to identify two more bodies recovered on Sunday.

Exhausted search teams waded through waist-deep mud as thick as wet concrete among the tangled remains of Bento Rodrigues, the village most devastated by the mudslides. The 600-person community stood in the shadow of the broken dams, located about a six-hour car ride north of Rio de Janeiro, in the heart of Brazil's iron ore belt.

Intense flooding swept through towns as far as 100 km (62 miles) away after the dams burst at two reservoirs holding mining waste. Four days later, the contaminated mud is still running past the well-populated banks of the Rio Doce river.

Governador Valadares, a city of 280,000, cut off its municipal water supply for over 24 hours and will keep testing the water until the mud passes, officials said on Monday.

Health authorities are checking the toxicity of the waters and told residents who came in contact with the mud to throw out their clothing. Biologists warn that the environmental impact may be permanent, devastating local fisheries and farms.

Residents and officials have also criticized what they say has been lax communication by mine operator Samarco, a joint venture between the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd , and the biggest iron ore miner, Vale SA .   Continuación...