Death toll climbs to 34 in Brazil mining dam burst

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BRUMADINHO, Brazil (Reuters) – Brazilian firefighters said on Saturday that at least 34 people were killed when a dam burst at an iron ore mine owned by Vale SA (VALE3.SA), as rescuers continued to search for hundreds still missing.

The Minas Gerais state fire department also said 23 people have been hospitalized after the dam released a torrent of mud on Friday, leaving a roughly 150-meter-wide (500-foot-wide) wake of destruction.

In an earlier statement, the department had said 300 people were still missing and 46 had been found alive, a figure that it did not update in its latest disclosure.

Firefighters focused their hopes for finding survivors on a bus, a train, mining offices and nearby homes that were buried on Friday in mud after the dam break at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao facility in Minas Gerais state.

Frantic family members of the missing crowded into a warehouse set up by Vale for those affected, next to a stretch of river now demolished by the sludge. More than a dozen helicopters helping to survey the area took off and landed from a soccer field nearby.

“Unfortunately, at this point, the chances of finding survivors are minimal. We’re likely to just be recovering bodies,” Romeu Zema, governor of Minas Gerais, told local media.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Additional reporting by Marta Nogueira and Marcela Ayers; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Brad Haynes, Paul Simao and Sandra Maler

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