The death toll from the collapse of a tailing dam in Brumadinho, Brazil’s southeastern state of Minas Gerais, reached 99 on Wednesday, with 259 people still missing.
The dam ruptured on Friday, sending a wave of iron ore waste and mud down the hill, destroying everything in its path, including residential areas, at least two small hotels and a large administrative area of mining giant Vale, owner of the mining complex where the dam was located.
With the smells of livestock and chemical substances filled in the air, the site of the collapsed dam has seen several firefighters searching for bodies, even though the possibility of finding people alive is widely regarded as very remote.
“Our group members and I searched out two bodies today. The most difficult part is to locate these bodies, as they are covered with mud of same color; it’s so hard to distinguish. Identifying human remains is quite difficult and is an uneasy job. We have to be highly concentrated and be alerted so as to find the bodies, but I feel grateful to have the chance to do this job. We will exert all of our efforts to give the society an explanation,” said Nunes, a firefighter of the Maranhao State, north to the Minas Gerais.
Apart from firefighters, medical teams and chemical experts are also present on site.
The tailings dam, which belongs to Vale, has a large amount of deposits of wastes and chemical substances. After the dam collapsed, it has added up the possibility of chemical pollution and poisoning.
By Wednesday, no specific chemical compositions are disclosed.
So far, the muddy waste has traveled almost 100 kilometers down the Paraopeba River. Vale started on Wednesday to install equipment in the river, trying to contain the material and prevent it from reaching the Sao Francisco River.
The Vale has announced that it will clear away 10 other tailings dams just like the one that collapsed. The company has also promised to pay 100,000 reals (about 27,000 U.S. dollars) as compensation to each victim’s family.