Rescuers spirited survivors out of a mountainous area of southeastern Brazil flooded with a sea of viscous, clay-red mud after two dams burst at an iron ore mine.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – A dam burst at an iron ore mine in southeastern Brazil, flooding a small town nearby and submerging homes and vehicles. Officials said two people were killed, four were injured and 13 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.
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.
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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."
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.
Guilherme de Sa Meneghin of the state prosecutor's office and Minas Gerais state Gov. Fernando Pimentel said two people died, though the state fire department had confirmed only one death so far. The department said four people were injured and another 13 missing, though it warned that the latter figure could rise. About 100 of the nearly 600 people thought to live in the area have yet to be accounted for.