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Brazil Dam Collapse Could Be Among Deadliest in 50 Years

Death toll in Brumadinho tragedy jumps to 58, with hundreds still missing
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 28, 2019 9:50 AM CST
Rescue workers on Monday carry away a body they pulled from the mud after a dam collapsed and flooded Brumadinho, Brazil, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
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(Newser) – Officials in Brazil feared they'd find many more bodies after a dam collapse in Brumadinho on Friday. Those fears have been realized, with the death toll climbing from under a dozen to now nearly 60. Authorities have confirmed 58 people perished and up to 300 are still missing, and rescue and recovery efforts sound perilous in their own right: The AP notes firefighters sometimes having to crawl over the search area, with the mine-waste-infused mud that surged out from the dam up to 24 feet deep in places. Making matters worse was a scare on Sunday that a second mine dam was about to breach, sending 24,000 people to higher ground while civil engineers checked everything out. That dam was eventually deemed to be OK, but the New York Times notes the entire situation underscores possible oversight issues with Brazil's mining industry.

Plus, because the country's new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has pledged to pull back on mining regulations, many worry something like this could happen again. The paper notes there are about 400 mining dams similar to the one that gave way (some deemed "unstable"); one in nearby Mariana burst in late 2015, killing 19. Both the Brumadinho and Mariana dams had been deemed "stable" before they collapsed, an industrial engineering expert says. Meanwhile, Vale, the mine that operates the newly collapsed dam, is facing serious troubles as a result of the breach: Per the Wall Street Journal, the company is now facing "spiraling losses," including shares that plummeted 19% after trading kicked off Monday. The Journal adds the incident could be "the world's most deadly mining disaster in over 50 years." (Tragedy at an abandoned mining pool in Malaysia.)

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