Israel to send rescue equipment to Brazil after dam collapse

Rescue crew work in a tailings dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho (photo credit: WASHINGTON ALVES / REUTERS)
Rescue crew work in a tailings dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho
Israel will send rescue equipment to Brazil to help in the search for some 300 people feared dead following the collapse of a dam on Friday at a mine near the town of Brumadinho, some 500 km. north of Rio de Janeiro.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Saturday with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and offered to send immediate aid and rescue workers to search for the missing people. Bolsonaro, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, accepted the aid offer.
Netanyahu earlier this month attended the inauguration of Bolsonaro, who has pledged to significantly improve ties with Israel and move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem.
Brazilian rescue workers on Saturday searched for the missing people after a tailings dam used to store byproducts of mining operations burst at an iron ore mine owned by Vale SA, amid faint hopes of finding many alive, three years after a similar disaster involving the same mine.
Nine people have been found dead after the dam burst on Friday, while nearly 200 people have been rescued, according to firemen running the rescue effort in Brumadinho.
“Unfortunately, at this point, the chances of finding survivors are minimal. We’re likely to just be rescuing bodies,” Romeu Zema, governor of the mining-intensive state of Minas Gerais where the disaster struck, told local press.
The death toll was expected to rise sharply, according to Avimar de Melo Barcelos, the mayor of Brumadinho, located near the mine. The cause of the collapse is not known.
Rescuers have mapped out four points where people still could be found alive, including a cafeteria buried in sludge around lunchtime, a police spokesman said. Search dogs were being flown in from Rio de Janeiro.
All of the missing are Vale employees or contractors, the spokesman said.
Renato Simão de Oliveiras, 32, was searching hospitals for his brother, who had worked for Vale for six years, and was despairing at the lack of information.
“I heard about it when I was at work. I called him several times but couldn’t get a hold of him,” he said.
“We’re lost; we don’t know anything.”
The state is still recovering from the collapse in November 2015 of a larger dam that killed 19 people in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.
That dam, owned by the Samarco Mineracao SA, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Group Ltd., buried a village and poured toxic waste into a major river.
A state judge ordered Vale to freeze 1 billion reais ($265 million) in its accounts, to be held against damages caused by the dam rupture.
Bolsonaro was set to visit Minas Gerais and fly over the disaster area on Saturday morning, after dispatching three ministers there on Friday.