Death toll from Brazilian dam collapse hits 142

A total of 194 people, among whom are residents of the destroyed neighborhoods and employees of Vale, the dam's owner, remain missing.

The death toll from the collapse of a tailings dam in Brumadinho in Brazil's southeastern state of Minas Gerais reached 142 on Tuesday, local authorities said.

Out of the 142 bodies retrieved, 122 have been identified. A total of 194 people, among whom are residents of the destroyed neighborhoods and employees of Vale, the dam's owner, remain missing.

Rescue teams are working in several areas to find and retrieve more bodies. Some 400 workers are involved in the rescue efforts: half are Minas Gerais state firefighters, while the other half comprised National Public Security Force officers, firefighters from other states and volunteers. Earlier in the day, five engineers and managers who had been arrested for being responsible for the dam collapse were granted habeas corpus by Brazil's Superior Court of Justice and were released.

The five professionals, three of them Vale workers and two outsourced workers, either attested to the safety of the dam or were responsible for obtaining permits.

The mining waste which escaped from the dam continues to flow down the Paraopeba River, and experts said the river is virtually dead, much like what happened to the Doce River when a similar incident happened in Mariana, also in Minas Gerais state, in late 2015. Several towns located by the river are facing difficulties given the impossibility of using the river as their source of water, and some have declared a state of emergency or calamity.

In addition, a study published Tuesday by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, a Brazilian public security and epidemiology think tank, estimated that the towns in the vicinity of the Paraopeba River will most likely face outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases such as yellow fever or dengue. A similar situation occurred in the Mariana incident.

Xinhua

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