Deaths after cliff collapsed onto tourist boats at Brazil lake (updated)

BRASILIA, 9 Jan 2022:

The death toll has risen to 10 after part of cliff overlooking a lake in southeastern Brazil collapsed onto three pleasure boats, authorities said.

The 10 people who died were riding in the same boat, the Jesus, at the time of the accident, Civil Police chief Marcos Pimenta said, adding that authorities were having serious difficulties identifying the dead due to the severity of the impact.

Besides the 10 people killed, 32 other people were injured, most of them only slightly although four people remain hospitalised.

Rescue teams found the body of a man submerged in the lake at the accident site in the municipality of Capitolio, in southeastern Minas Gerais state, the spokesman for the local fire department, Pedro Aihara, told reporters.

Later, they located the bodies of two other people who were still missing after the tragedy, and Minas Gerais Fire Department Commander Giuvaine Barbosa said at a press conference that rescue and recovery crews will continue working to fully recover the bodies, but he emphasized that they do not believe there are any people remaining missing.

Two of the three boats struck by the giant slab of rock when it came tumbling down at around 11am were completely submerged.

Established in 1958 to power a hydroelectric plant, Lake Furnas brings thousands of weekend visitors to Capitolio, a small town some 280km from Belo Horizonte, the state capital and Brazil’s sixth-largest city.

A video circulating on social media shows the moments before the impact, as the boats nearest the cliff face attempted to move away from the shore amid warning cries from the occupants of craft just outside the danger zone.

First responders planned to continue the search for more potential victims until nightfall.

The canyons around the lake are formed by sedimentary rock that is “more susceptible to the action of wind and rain,” fire department spokesman Pedro Aihara told GloboNews television.

“We are in a very rainy period, which could have accelerated the penetration of the water in the rock structure.”

The Brazilian navy said it planned to investigate the tragedy, while Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema offered condolences to loved ones of the victims.

“I stand with the families in this difficult moment. We will continue acting to provide the necessary support and protection.”