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Wall of rock falls on boaters on Brazilian lake, killing six

BRASILIA, BRAZIL (AP) – A towering slab of rock broke from a cliff and toppled onto pleasure boaters drifting near a waterfall on a Brazilian lake on Saturday and officials said at least six people died.

Commander of the Minas Gerais State Fire Department Edgard Estevo said at a news conference that in addition to the dead as many as 20 people might be missing and officials were seeking to identify them.

Officials said at least 32 people were injured, though most had been released from hospitals by Saturday evening.

Video images showed a gathering of small boats moving slowly near the sheer rock cliff on Furnas Lake when a fissure appeared in the rock and a huge piece toppled onto at least two of the vessels.

Estevo said the accident occurred between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had left.

A tourist boat navigates through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near Capitolio City. PHOTO: AP

The press office of Minas Gerais state told The Associated Press that the Fire Department had deployed divers and helicopters to help.

Minas Gerais Governor Romeu Zema sent messages of solidarity with the victims via social media.

Furnas Lake, which was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric plant, is a popular tourist draw in the area roughly 420 kilometres north of Sao Paulo. Officials in Capitolio, which has about 8,400 residents, said the town can see around 5,000 visitors on a weekend, and up to 30,000 on holidays.

Officials suggested the wall coming loose could have been related to heavy rains recently that caused flooding in the state and forced almost 17,000 people out of their homes.

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