More than 200 missing after dam collapses in Brazil

More than 200 missing after dam collapses in Brazil

A tailings dam at a Brazilian iron ore operation owned by local mining giant Vale (NYSE:VALER) burst Friday, releasing a river of sludge that covered nearby buildings and forced the evacuation of hundreds of locals.

Helicopters were used to rescue "numerous" people trapped by the mud at various spots, the statement said.

Emergency services were still responding to the situation in and around the town of Brumadinho and did not yet have a precise toll, the official said.

There were no official reports of deaths, but the state fire department press department told The Associated Press that about 200 people were estimated to be missing. "We do not have more details because everything is happening very fast", he said.

An aerial view shows flooding triggered by the dam collapse. There was no immediate word of fatalities.

Local television channel TV Record showed a firefighters' helicopter hovering inches off the ground as it pulled people covered in mud out of the sludge.

The river of mud cut a swath across roads and through vegetation and farmland, damaging and destroying houses.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro expressed condolences, and announced that the MInisters of Regional Development and Mines and Energy, as well as the country's Civil Defense chief have been sent to the area.

The dam belonged to Brazil's biggest mining company Vale, which confirmed its collapse and said "the total priority is to protect the lives of employees and inhabitants".

The emergency recalled trauma from a 2015 dam break in a different part of the same state of Minas Gerais, at Mariana, in which 19 people died. According to Brazil's environmental protection agency, the barrier held 1 million cubic meters (35.3 million cubic feet) of tailings. However, a United Nations report found that the waste from the 2015 disaster "contained high levels of toxic heavy metals". The 2015 collapse left 250,000 people without drinking water and killed thousands of fish. Two hours after the accident, its stock fell 10 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

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