Rescue crew work in a tailings dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho, Brazil Jan. 25, 2019.
Rescue crew work in a tailings dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho, Brazil Jan. 25, 2019.

The death toll from a dam collapse at a mine that caused a mudslide in Brazil rose to 34, fire officials said Saturday. 
 
Brazil's environmental ministry fined mining giant Vales $66 million after the dam collapse on Friday sent a torrent of mud over a nearby community. Officials said roughly 300 people were trapped in areas flooded by the river of sludge released by the dam near the town of Brumadinho in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. 

Rescue operations continued, but the state's governor, Romeu Zema, said Saturday morning that there was little chance of finding people alive.

"From now, the odds are minimal and it's most likely we'll recover only bodies," he said.

Fire officials said among those missing were 200 employees who were having lunch in the dam's administrative area when the collapse occurred.

The U.N. secretary-general's office said it was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy and extended its condolences to the families of victims. 

"The United Nations system stands ready to support the Brazilian authorities in the search and emergency relief efforts," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the secretary-general, said in a statement Saturday.

Television images showed rescue workers in helicopters trying to help people trapped in thick mud. The images also showed damage to homes, vehicles and large areas of farmland.
 
Authorities ordered families to evacuate homes in low-lying areas.

Vales came under scrutiny for regulatory violations and pollution in the wake of the disaster.

A similar disaster occurred in 2015 when another mining dam broke in the same state of Minas Gerais, killing 19 people. That dam was also administrated by Vale, along with Australian mining company BHP Billiton. The 2015 dam collapse released millions of tons of toxic iron waste along hundreds of kilometers, causing what is considered Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster.

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