Firefighters search mud after dam collapse

BRUMADINHO, Brazil (AP) – Firefighters are carefully moving over treacherous mud, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling, in search of survivors or bodies left by a dam collapse that buried mine buildings and surrounding neighbourhoods with iron ore waste.

The confirmed death toll rose to 58, with up to 300 people still missing, authorities said. In an ominous sign, nobody was recovered alive on Sunday, a stark difference from the first two days of the disaster, when helicopters were whisking people from the mud.

The slow speed of search efforts was due to the treacherous sea of reddish-brown mud that surged out when the mine dam breached Friday afternoon.

It is up 24 feet deep in some places, and to avoid the danger of sinking and drowning searchers had to carefully walk around the edges or slowly crawl out onto the muck.

Even those efforts were suspended about 10 hours Sunday because of fears that a second mine dam in the southeastern city of Brumadinho was at risk of failing.

An estimated 24,000 people were told to get to higher ground, but by afternoon civil engineers said the second dam was no longer at risk.

Areas of water-soaked mud appeared to be drying out, which could help firefighters get to areas previously unreachable. Still, it was slow going for the search teams, and residents were on edge.

Rescuers work to reach a cow that is stuck in a field of mud in Brumadinho, Brazil. – AP