A dam burst at an iron ore mine in southeastern Brazil, flooding a small town nearby and submerging homes and vehicles. At least one body has been recovered and authorities said an unknown number of people were missing.

Rescue teams were searching for bodies or survivors from Thursday's disaster. Residents living in an area downhill from the dam were told to evacuate to higher ground.

The Civil Defense agency of Minas Gerais state said one body had been recovered but officials had yet to determine how many people were missing.

Police, firefighters and local officials said they could not confirm any reported death tolls or victims.

Images from Globo TV showed the area of the operation overrun with water and clay-red mud, with large vehicles tossed on their sides.

A small cluster of homes and about 400 people live in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, about 7 kilometers (just over 4 miles) beneath the dam that burst. Images showed the town flooded with mud and water.

Authorities said the dam was built to hold back water and residue from mining operations, a mixture that can often be toxic.

The Samarco mining company said in a statement on its website that it was making "every effort to prioritize care to people and mitigate damage to the environment."

"It is not possible at this moment to confirm a cause ... nor if there are victims," it added.

Samarco is jointly owned by Brazilian mining company Vale and Australia's BHP Billiton.

A statement from the city hall of Mariana, a city of about 40,000 people 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro, said the dam ruptured at 4:20 p.m. in an area roughly 20 kilometers (over 12 miles) from the city center.