Brazil’s Barão de Cocais waits as a dam close by is at risk of collapse

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Brazil's Barão de Cocais
Photo: Reuters

Sadly, the scars of Brazil’s worst mining disaster is still raw in which thick mud layer buried about 270 people in Brumadinho.  Now, within four months one more e community in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais faces being wiped out from the map by the violent flow of mining waste. Inhabitants of Barão de Cocais have been notified that a nearby dam is at threat of collapse.

Barao de Cocais’s civil defence headquarters displays real-time images of Gongo Soco along with Sul Superior dam which is just 1.5 km from it. Since last week all the eyes were nervously observing the mine from the time when Mining Company Vale who owned the entire complex warned that the embankment could collapse anytime in the coming week.

José Ocimar, the member of Civil defence authority, said ‘the wall of the Gongo Soco mine could rupture any day. That would also create a shock as well as vibration, which can trigger the collapse of the dam underneath.’ He added that ‘we cannot be completely sure regarding what will going to happen; however, we are taking the required precautions to prevent the loss of human life.’

Approximately 3000 residents are in the path of the potential mudslide as they are the residents of the small mining town of Barao de Cocais. Dotted in the region of the central plaza are the details which confirm that something is wrong. The pavements of the streets inside the flood area have been painted orange, several banks; shops along with post office have also been closed for days. Also, evacuation route has also been marked out with signs

A 21-year-old apprentice, Talita, says it is unsettling as everyone is tense and also scared. We don’t know how to react to this situation. She alleged while gesturing at a group of workmates sitting on the park benches. She added ‘it is sad to see that people desperate and so unsure of anything, regarding at what time it will collapse or if they have a home to return or not. Also, are worried that will there be clean water to drink.’

Sadly Barao de Cocais will take about one hour and 15 min to evacuate, however in recent drill town was cleared within approximately fifty minutes. The firm has been a source of income in Barao de Cocais, however, people are angry regarding what they see as its persistent chase of profit. A car mechanic, Gilmar dos Santos supposed that ‘I am afraid as I don’t have a good impression of the vale. It also seems that the company pits their profits above everything else, and people are just not a priority to them.’

He is very much worried about his family’s ability to flee in a hurry in such a situation as his elderly parents are on the whole weak. On the other side, a vigorous woman in her 80s admits that she would have in actual difficulty in evacuating the residence she has lived in for about 48 years. She alleged, ‘I am trying to stay calm as we get apprehensive words along with worry, so every night one of my children comes to sleep here. If something happens, we are by, but it’s hard.’ Also, her husband Raimundo is at the advanced stage Alzheimer’s, however, he sits and passing smile as he was unaware of the impending disaster threatening the whole town.