TEMPO.CO, Brumadinho - Brazilian rescue workers on Saturday, Jan. 26, searched for roughly 300 missing people after a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine owned by Vale SA, amid faint hopes of finding many alive, three years after a similar disaster involving the miner.
Nine people have been found dead after the dam burst on Friday, while nearly 200 people have been rescued, according to firemen running the rescue effort in the town of Brumadinho.
"Unfortunately, at this point, the chances of finding survivors are minimal. We're likely to just be rescuing bodies," Romeu Zema, governor of the mining-intensive state of Minas Gerais where the disaster struck, told a local press.
The death toll was expected to rise sharply, according to Avimar de Melo Barcelos, mayor of the town of Brumadinho located near the mine. The cause of the rupture is not known.
Rescuers have mapped out four points where people still could be found alive, including a cafeteria buried in sludge around lunchtime, a police spokesman said. Search dogs were being flown in from Rio de Janeiro.
All of those missing are Vale employees or contractors, the spokesman said.
Renato Simão de Oliveiras was searching hospitals and with police for his brother, who had worked for Vale for 6 years, and was despairing at the lack of information.
"I heard about it when I was at work. I called him several times but couldn't get a hold of him," the 32 year old said. "We're lost, we don't know anything."
The state is still recovering from the collapse in November 2015 of a larger dam that killed 19 people in Brazil's worst environmental disaster. That dam, owned by the Samarco Mineracao SA joint venture between Vale and BHP Group Ltd, buried a village and poured toxic waste into a major river.