MARIANA, Brazil (AP) – Brazilian rescuers searched feverishly Friday for possible survivors after two dams burst at an iron ore mine in a southeastern mountainous area. Authorities said one person was killed.
The accident unleashed a possibly toxic mix of water and ore mining residue from the mine upon a small village 7 kilometers (4 miles) downhill. Images from Globo TV showed the area awash in a torrent of water and clay-red mud that tossed cars on their sides and covered houses.
Authorities on Thursday said one dam at the Samarco iron ore mining operation had burst roughly 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the city of Mariana, which is 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro.
But in a video posted later on Samarco’s Facebook page, company President Ricardo Vescovi said two dams at the facility had failed.
“Our focus in this critical moment is to preserve the integrity of people and of the environment,” Vescovi said in the video. “We are deeply sorry and we are very moved by what happened, but we are also in full action to stop the damage caused by this tragic accident.”
The Civil Defense agency of Minas Gerais state said one body was recovered late Thursday, but officials had yet to determine if any people were missing. Police, firefighters and local officials said they could not confirm any deaths.
Samarco is jointly owned by the Brazilian mining company Vale and Australia’s BHP Billiton.
A statement from Mariana, a city of 40,000 people, said the dam ruptured about 4:20 p.m. on Thursday.