Brazil president surveys dam disaster site; govt vows probe, audit of other dams

jueves 12 de noviembre de 2015 11:24 GYT

By Stephen Eisenhammer and Marta Nogueira

MARIANA, Brazil Nov 12 (Reuters) - President Dilma Rousseff on Thursday flew over a devastated part of Brazil's southeast region where two dams burst at an iron ore mine last week, killing at least seven people and swamping a vast area with mud and mine waste.

Her visit comes as federal prosecutors said Wednesday they would work with state prosecutors to investigate possible crimes behind the disaster, and the country's mining minister said the government would conduct an audit of other dams in the sector.

The moves by federal officials toughen the discourse of a national government that until recently had left much of the response to the disaster in the hands of the state government of Minas Gerais, a global mining hub and site of the tragedy.

On Wednesday, Rousseff, a native of Minas Gerais, spoke with the chief executives of BHP Billiton Ltd. and Vale SA , the mine's owners.

She told them Brazil's government expected the companies to pay for rescue and cleanup efforts, as well compensation for more than 500 people who were displaced as their homes were destroyed. Earlier, her environment minister said the government was mulling fines against the two industry giants.

On Wednesday, a top federal prosecutor said the federal government would form a task force with Minas Gerais prosecutors to see if federal crimes may have been committed in addition to violations found by the state, responsible for the environmental licensing.

"Vale and BHP were completely careless in terms of prevention," said Sandra Cureau, an assistant prosecutor general in Brasilia, Brazil's capital. "There has been a total lack of concern with the victims."

Rousseff was expected to speak Thursday after surveying the disaster area.   Continuación...