Death toll reaches 58 in Brazil dam collapse

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Senior Brazilian politicians have called for Vale SA to be held to account for last week's dam disaster, as anger grows towards the mining firm.

Firefighters say 60 people are now confirmed dead after a sea of mud engulfed a canteen and nearby houses.

Pedrosa, 45, and her parents dashed to their vehicle and drove to the highest point in the neighborhood.

The confirmed death toll rose to 58 late Sunday, with up to 300 people still missing, according to authorities.

Brazilian firefighters on Monday carefully moved over treacherous mud, sometimes walking, sometimes crawling, in search of survivors or bodies, four days after a dam collapse buried mine buildings and surrounding neighbourhoods with iron ore waste.

A state of emergency has been declared, and an emergency task force along with political leaders from the Minas Gerais government are already at the site of the disaster in Brumadinho.

On a visit to assess the damage in Brumadinho over the weekend, Vale CEO Fabio Schvartsman said, "It is impossible to come here and not become emotional by the sadness of the situation and the superhuman efforts of all those assisting in this operation".

Brazilian officials halted search operations Sunday for hundreds of people still missing after a mudslide caused by a dam burst amid fears of a possible second dam breach.

"We are here just literally hugging people", said Paula de Deus, a public defender volunteering at the school, adding there was little in the way of information they could offer.

The level of devastation quickly led President Jair Bolsonaro and other officials to describe it as a "tragedy".

On 5 November 2015, a dam - also owned by Vale, along with BHP Billiton - burst at a Samarco mine in Mariana.

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One executive at a pension fund that holds Vale shares, who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said it would be hard to justify big shareholder payouts in coming quarters, adding that a full review of Vale's governance was needed.

Dozens of trapped people, many of them covered in mud, had to be evacuated by helicopter as roads were destroyed. "Right now, I can only hope for a miracle".

Brazil's Attorney General, Raquel Dodge promised to investigate, saying "someone is definitely at fault".

According to Vale's website, the waste is composed mostly of sand and is non-toxic.

"Time is passing", she said. However, a United Nations report found that waste from a 2015 disaster "contained high levels of toxic heavy metals". On Sunday, the amount of Vale assets frozen in anticipation of damages and fines was almost doubled by the courts to 11 billion reais ($US2.9 billion).

Walter Morais, a member of the Red Cross team sent to the disaster zone, said his relief group "will begin humanitarian actions helping people who were rescued and are homeless".

"Put simply, the intangible aspect (at this point unquantifiable) of this incident is what concerns us most and at the end of the day the entire mining industry will need to re-think the current model", analysts Leonardo Correa and Gerard Roure at BTG Pactual said on Sunday in a note to clients.

Vale is now investigating the causes of the Feijão disaster.

Avimar de Melo Barcelos, the mayor of Brumadinho, blasted Vale for being "careless and incompetent", and blamed the mining company for the tragedy and the state of Minas Gerais for poor oversight. One person involved in the talks said they might now be suspended.

Marina Silva, a former environmental minister and presidential candidate, toured the area Sunday.

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