Rock wall collapses and hits tourist boats in Brazil, killing at least 8 people
RIO DE JANEIRO — At least eight tourists were killed on a lake in southeastern Brazil when a rock face collapsed and struck their boat, local authorities said Sunday.
Police identified the first body, officials told a news conference. The person was a 68-year-old man from the municipality of Alpinópolis.
Two people were still missing following the incident on Saturday at Lago de Furnas, firefighters from the state of Minas Gerais said. The search for them continued into the early hours of Sunday.
More than 30 people were injured, four of whom remained in hospital on Sunday.
Video footage showed rocks falling off a cliff before much of the rock broke away completely and tipped over tour boats below.
Passengers on a boat further away can be heard trying to warn others. “Get away from there! they shouted. “There are a lot of stones falling.” Screams can also be heard.
According to firefighters, two boats were hit directly, while two others were hit indirectly. All the dead were on one boat named Jesus.
Dive teams have been sent to the lake, which is a popular tourist destination in the region.
“Today we are living the pain of a tragedy in our state, triggered by the heavy rains that caused the detachment of a rock wall from the Lago de Furnas in Capitólio,” wrote the governor of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema, on Twitter.
The Brazilian Navy, which participated in the rescue operation, announced an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.
Investigators will be tasked with clarifying whether tour boats were allowed on the lake given the weather conditions. Civil protection had warned of heavy rain.
A Facebook post published about ten years ago attracted the attention of the press and social networks, in which a surfer warned of the danger of a rock fall at the edge of the lake.
“This rock is going to fall,” Flávio Freitas, a doctor, wrote in March 2012, alongside a photo showing a long vertical crack in the rock face above the water.
According to experts, the heavy rains observed in recent days have been aggravated by the fact that the region is mainly made up of sedimentary rocks.
Pedro Aihara, spokesman for the Minas Gerais fire brigade, told Brazilian television: “Water infiltration in these areas can cause the rock to lose its internal resistance. And a fracture like this can happen.