By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Exactly one month after Brazil’s most deadly mining disasters, firefighters and volunteers still search for at least 131 people still missing under tons of mud left behind after a dam in the Feijão mining complex, owned by Brazilian giant, Vale, gave way on January 25th. So far 179 corpses have been retrieved and identified.

Brumadinho dam burst disaster January 25, 2019, Brazil.
Brumadinho dam burst disaster January 25, 2019, photo by Isac Nobrega/PR

“The search starts at 5am, when the teams get up. At 6:30 am, we gather for directions, a safety briefing and guidelines of what will be done throughout the day. The teams are then taken into the field,”firefighter Lt. Col. Anderson Passos tells journalists.

“At the end of the day, when the teams return, they give us feedback on how the search went. We then hold a meeting to plan the next day and everything repeats itself,” concluded the official.

According to the Minas Gerais Fire Department, work is expected to extend for another three to four months, but as time passes it is harder to find the bodies of those missing.

The muddy water has reached the Paraopeba River, and the Minas Gerais government banned water consumption due to the risk of contamination. There is no forecast of when the measure will be suspended.

“The instructions for not using river water without treatment is valid for any purpose: human, animal and agricultural activities,” read the statement issued by officials on Sunday, February 24th.

The measure was adopted after the detection of metals at levels above those permitted by environmental legislation, according to the Minas Gerais Health Secretariat.

Since the disaster, Brazil’s National Mining Agency (ANM) determined the closure of all upstream dams, such as the one in Brumadinho. A resolution, published on Monday (18) in Brazil’s Official Registry (DOU), determines the decommissioning of all upstream dams that are deactivated, by August 15, 2021. Those that are still in operation will have to be decommissioned and extinguished by August 15, 2023.

Data from ANM show that the measure applies to a total of 84 dams built with the upstream method, of which, 43 are classified as high potential damage.


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