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58 Dead, Hundreds Missing After A Dam Busted In Brazil

Dozens are dead and hundreds are missing after a dam collapsed in Brazil, flooding an iron mine and burying parts of a nearby town, CNN reports.

A dam owned by the Brazilian mining giant Vale in the state of Minas Gerais broke Friday. A flood of water and debris rushed into the Córrego do Feijão mine, where 427 people were working at the time. The disaster spread to Brumadinho and wiped out parts of the mining town with little warning.

The death toll rose to 58 over the weekend, authorities told CNN.

Heavy rains and the threat of another dam breaking have hampered rescue efforts. Emergency authorities told 3,000 people to evacuate Sunday and paused rescue operations until another dam, thought to be in danger of breaking, could be checked and cleared.

Vale’s business strategy and practices have come under scrutiny since the disaster. Vale’s board has suspended bonuses, buybacks and dividends to executives as its stock has continued to plummet since Friday, Reuters reports.

Vale Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman has defended the company’s practices and asserted that the dam passed all safety inspections and the mine’s buildings were all built to code.

“I’m not a mining technician. I followed the technicians’ advice and you see what happened. It didn’t work,” Schvartsman told Reuters. “We are 100 percent within all the standards, and that didn’t do it.”

The head of Brazil’s mining and energy commission Joao Vitor Xavier slammed Vale for taking the “cheaper way” of doing business, according to Reuters.

Demonstrations against the company broke out in Casa Branca, a town near Brumadinho, over the weekend. Protesters carried signs saying “Vale kills” and “Vale profits while mud kills,” local media reported accord to CNN.

Vale had a similar accident less than four years ago at a mine it ran jointly with the international mining company BHP. A dam collapsed and released toxic sludge into a major river, killing 19 people while causing an environmental disaster, Reuters reports.

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