Five arrested in connection with Brazil dam disaster

The dam that held back iron ore waste collapsed on Friday. (Reuters)

Authorities arrested five people Tuesday in connection with the collapse of a Brazilian mine dam, while the death toll rose to at least 84 and the carcasses of fish floated along the banks of a river downstream that an indigenous community depends on for food and water.

The dam that held back iron ore waste, owned and operated by big mining company Vale SA, collapsed Friday, burying a company cafeteria and other Vale buildings and inundating part of the small southeastern city of Brumadinho.

Lt. Flavio Godinho of the Minas Gerais state civil defense agency said Tuesday evening that the number of confirmed dead had risen to 84 from 65. He said the number of missing stood at 276.

The dead fish and trash were seen by a reporting team for The Associated Press about 18 kilometers (11 miles) downstream from the dam along the banks of the Paraopeba River.

The signs of possible ecological consequences came as the arrests of company workers with links to the dam were made in Sao Paulo and in the state of Minas Gerais.

Three of the arrested worked for Vale, the company said, adding that it was cooperating with investigating authorities.

A German company that has inspected the dam said two of its employees were arrested. The Munich-based TUEV Sued Company declined to specify whether the arrested staff were from its German headquarters or its Brazilian branch.

Authorities said the five will be detained for 30 days while officials investigate possible criminal responsibility.

Vale is the world’s largest producer of iron ore, which is the raw ingredient for steel.

The company is one of Brazil’s largest businesses and a key employer in Brumadinho, but many residents have complained that a siren which should have gone off to warn people to evacuate never sounded Friday.

The company’s American depository shares on the New York Stock Exchange were up 3 percent Tuesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange, to $11.54 each, after falling nearly 18 percent on Monday.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
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