IT TOOK decades to build and just minutes to completely destroy. This is what remains of Bento Rodrigues, the small Brazilian village that was flattened by a 20m wall of toxic mud that spewed out of a burst tailings dam from a nearby mine site in the Mariana region of Minas Gerais in the south east of the country.
An estimated 40-60 million cubic metres of thick sludge swept through, without warning, swallowing just about everything in its path.
Residents, who had lived in the shadow of the Samarco Mineiracoes mine, a joint venture between Vale SA and the Australian-owned BHP Billiton for the past decade, reportedly had just 25 minutes to flee for their lives.
Despite reports revealing the plant’s operator knew of the leak 10 hours earlier, locals were not told and had to fend for themselves when the monster wave came hurtling towards their village on November 5, 2015.
Hundreds were displaced, dozens injured and 19 people were killed in what has been described as Brazil’s biggest environmental catastrophe.
But the devastation caused by the Samarco Mineiracoes mine disaster is not limited to the immediate destruction of Bento Rodrigues.
The effects of the spill, which pumped contaminated mud all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean in the space of three weeks, will be felt for years to come.
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