BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Brazilian rescue workers halted searches for the night on Saturday for hundreds of people missing and feared dead under a sea of mud after a tailings dam burst at an iron ore mine owned by Vale SA, killing at least 34 people.
The dam ruptured on Friday, releasing a torrent of mining waste that slammed into Vale’s facilities and cut through a nearby community, leaving a roughly 150-meter-wide (500-foot-wide) wake of destruction stretching for miles (km).
The Minas Gerais state fire department, which gave the latest confirmed death toll, also said 23 people had been sent to hospitals. Some 250 people remained missing, according to a list released by Vale. All of those missing are Vale employees or contractors, a police spokesman said.
The search is set to resume on Sunday morning. Firefighters focused their hopes for finding survivors on a trapped bus and train, along with mining facilities and nearby homes that were buried in mud after the dam break at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao mine near the town of Brumadinho.
Reuters witnesses saw homes knocked over, roadways washed out and a rail bridge demolished by the wave of mud. Frantic family members of the missing crowded into a warehouse set up by Vale for those affected, next to a stretch of river erased by the sludge. More than a dozen helicopters helping to survey the area took off and landed from a soccer field nearby.