More than 100 Israeli soldiers from the Home Front Command and other personnel arrived in Brazil on Monday, to join search and rescue teams hunting for hundreds of people missing in the wake of a dam collapse on Friday. The Civil Defense office in Minais Gerais state on Monday raised the confirmed death toll to 58, with up to 300 people still missing following the avalanche of iron ore waste from a mine.
Brazilian rescue crews returned to mud-covered flats Sunday to resume the search for the missing, after the operation was suspended for several hours over fears that a second dam was at risk of breach.
The Israeli delegation comprises some 130 soldiers and officers, includes engineers, doctors, and search and rescue teams.
The Israeli delegation intends to stay in Brazil for at least a week. It has at its disposal special equipment meant to help operate in muddy conditions.
On Sunday, authorities stopped the search and evacuated several neighborhoods in the southeastern city of Brumadinho that were within range of the second B6 dam owned by the Brazilian mining company Vale. An estimated 24,000 people were told to get to higher ground, but by the afternoon civil engineers said the second dam was no longer at risk.
Even before the brief suspension of rescue efforts, hope that loved ones had survived a tsunami of iron ore mine waste from Friday's dam collapse was turning to anguish and anger over the increasing likelihood that many of the missing had died.
There was also mounting anger at Vale and questions about an apparent lack of an alarm system Friday. Caroline Steifeld, who was evacuated, said she heard warning sirens Sunday, but no such alert on the day the dam collapsed.
"I only heard shouting, people saying to get out. I had to run with my family to get to higher ground, but there was no siren," she said, adding that a cousin was still unaccounted for.
Romeu Zema, the governor of Minas Gerais state, said that by now most recovery efforts will entail pulling out bodies.
The flow of waste reached the nearby community of Vila Ferteco and an occupied Vale administrative office. It buried buildings to their rooftops and an extensive field of the mud cut off roads.
"I saw all the mud coming down the hill, snapping the trees as it descended. It was a tremendous noise," said a tearful Simone Pedrosa, from the neighborhood of Parque Cachoeira, 5 miles (8 kilometers) from where the dam collapsed.
Over the weekend, state courts and the Justice Ministry in the state of Minas Gerais froze about $3 billion from Vale assets for state emergency services and told the company to report on how they would help the victims.