Cliff rock face collapses on tourists at Brazil waterfall, killing at least 10

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The death toll from an accident in which a slab of cliff rock toppled onto pleasure boaters on a Brazilian lake has risen to 10, police said Sunday. Authorities worked to identify the dead and divers were searching the lake in case there were more victims.

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.

WATCH | Rescuers search lake for more victims:

Rescuers scour Brazil lake for survivors after rock collapse

Rescuers spent Sunday looking for more victims at a lake in southeastern Brazil after a cliff rock face toppled onto boats at a waterfall, killing at least 10 people. 0:27

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.

Relatives of those who died in the cliff rock collapse react at the Medico-Legal Institute in Passos, in Minas Gerais state, on Saturday. (Washington Alves/Reuters)



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