Engineers arrested as death toll from Brazil dam collapse rises to 84

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-30 13:25:17|Editor: Lu Hui
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Five employees were arrested on Tuesday for suspected involvement in the breakage of a tailings dam owned by the mining giant Vale in Brumadinho in Brazil's southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

Two of the arrested employees are subcontracted engineers from German group TUD SUD who worked at Vale. The others are all Vale direct employees, including a geologist and two managers.

According to Judge Perla Saliba Brito, who ordered the arrests, the geologist and engineers signed reports attesting to the dam's security and stating that the dam was following security procedures while the managers are directly responsible for the licensing and operations of the complex in which the dam is located, and thus are the ones in charge of its monitoring.

According to the judge, there is evidence connecting them to murdering the victims of the dam rupture, document fraud and environmental crimes.

The five employees will be detained in a prison in capital of Minas Gerais state Belo Horizonte for 30 days.

Meanwhile, rescue workers continue to try to find survivors of the disaster as 276 people are still missing, but chances are getting more and more remote as time passes. No survivors have been rescued since Saturday.

So far, a total of 84 bodies have been recovered, and 42 of them have been identified. Some of the rescue teams are concentrating in an area where a Vale cafeteria is believed to be buried under the mud. The whole structure was carried further down the valley by the mud wave.

Most of the confirmed victims are employees of Vale. About 100 workers were having lunch at the company's cafeteria located just below the dam when it burst. Rescue efforts have yet to locate the building, which may have been swept away by the mudslide, according to experts.

The incident marks the second tailings dam collapse in three years at a Vale-owned mining operation in Brazil, flooding communities and fields with toxic sludge.

In November 2015, a tailings dam partly-owned by Vale ruptured in Mariana, also in Minas Gerais, destroying an entire community and killing 19 people. It was considered Brazil's worst environmental disaster.

In total, Vale accounts for 70 to 80 percent of Brazil's iron exports, which reached 20.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, and ranks as the world's second-largest exporter of the mineral.

Industry observers said the company's success is partly due to the fact it pursued contracts "aggressively," but Brazil's competitive prices and the quality of the mineral were also factors.