Cliff rock face collapses on tourists at Brazil waterfall, killing at least 10
A cliff rock formation suddenly broke away from the canyon wall on Saturday, 8 January 2022 and came crashing down, crushing one of the leisure boats at Capitolio in Minas Gerais state in southeastern Brazil. Seven people died in the dramatic collapse of the canyon rock face on top of motor boats visiting a waterfall, rescuers said. Firemen and divers recovered three more bodies from the lake on Sunday, raising the death toll to 10 in the disaster that injured some 30 tourists hit by falling rocks and a huge wave of water caused when the column of rock crashed into the lake.
Police Chief Marcos Pimenta said there was a possibility that some people were missing following the accident Saturday in Minas Gerais state. At least 32 people were injured, though most were released from hospital by Saturday evening.
The accident occurred between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had left. Video images showed a gathering of small boats moving slowly near the sheer rock cliff on Furnas Lake when a fissure appeared in the rock and a huge piece toppled onto several of the vessels.
The bodies were taken to Passos city, where coroners worked to identify them. The work was difficult because of the "high energy impact" of the rock on the boaters, Pimenta said, adding that one victim had been identified as 68-year-old Julio Borges Antunes.
Furnas Lake, which was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric plant, is a popular tourist draw in the area roughly 420 kilometres north of Sao Paulo.
Officials suggested the wall coming loose could have been related to heavy rains recently that caused flooding in the state and forced almost 17 000 people out of their homes.
The head of the Applied Geology Division of the Brazilian Geological Service, Tiago Antonelli, said the cliff wall is subject to centuries of erosion and susceptible to rain, heat and cold. "It's normal to happen in many canyons, even with rocks of that size. But nowadays, with the intensification of tourism, people are starting to get closer to these places and to register these phenomena with their cellphones," Antonelli said.
Joana Fontez, a geology professor at the Federal University of Goias, said authorities should have been controlling the site to prevent accidents, especially in the rainy season. The boats should have been kept at least one kilometre away from the waterfall where the accident happened, she said.
The region has been under heavy rainfall for two weeks, which could have loosened the rock face. On Saturday, a dike overflowed at an iron ore mine 300 kilometres to the east, cutting off a major federal highway.
Sources: CBC News