Death toll from Brazil lake rockfall rises to 10

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – The death toll has risen to 10 in an accident where a cliff rock on Lake Brazil dumped on top of a cruise ship, police said on Sunday. Authorities are working to identify the dead, and divers are searching the lake in case there are more victims.

Police Chief Marcos Pimenta said there was a possibility that someone was missing following an accident in Minas Gerais on Saturday. At least 32 people were injured, but most were discharged Saturday night.

The accident occurred between the towns of San Jose da Barra and Capitoline, where the boat departed. Video images showed a group of small boats moving slowly near the steep rocky cliffs of Furnas Lake when a crack appeared in the rock and a large fragment fell on several boats.

The bodies were taken to Passos City, where the coroner worked to identify them. Marcos Pimenta, a local civilian police officer, said the job was difficult due to the “high-energy impact” of the rock on the crew. One victim was identified as 68-year-old Júlio Borges Antunes, he said.

Created in 1958 to install a hydroelectric power plant, Furnas Lake is a popular tourist attraction in the area about 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of São Paulo.

Officials said the loosening of the wall could be related to recent heavy rains that caused flooding in the state and forced nearly 17,000 people from their homes.

Tiago Antonelli, head of the Applied Geology Unit at the Brazilian Geological Agency, said the cliff walls had been eroded over hundreds of years and were vulnerable to rain, heat and cold.

“It’s normal for this to happen in a lot of canyons, even with rocks that big. But now, with the increased tourism, people are starting to get close to these places and use their phones to record these phenomena,” Antonelli said.

Joana Fontez, a professor of geology at the Federal University of Goiás, said authorities should have taken control of the site to prevent accidents, especially during the rainy season. The boats should have been at least one kilometer (0.6 miles) away from the waterfall where the accident occurred, she said.


Video journalist Marcos Limonti and photographer Igor do Vale contributed to this report in Capitolio, Brazil.

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