10 Boaters Killed by Falling Wall of Rock

Victims were below a cliff face that sheered off above Brazil's Furnas Lake
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2022 8:00 AM CST
Updated Jan 10, 2022 12:01 AM CST
At Least 6 Boaters Killed by Falling Wall of Rock
A tourist boat navigates through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near Capitolio City, Brazil   (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Update: The cliff collapse in Brazil killed 10 people, only one of whom had been identified by Sunday afternoon, as 68-year-old retiree Julio Borges Antunes. All victims and survivors have now been accounted for, and two people remain hospitalized, the New York Times reports. At least 27 others were treated for minor injuries. Video of the tragedy showed boaters trying to warn others to "get away" as they saw rocks starting to fall into the lake, but the waterfall at the spot, plus music coming from the boats, drowned out their cries. Days of rain in the area preceded the slab peeling off from the cliff face, and officials were blaming the rain for the incident. At least 20 other people have died in Brazil due to rain and flooding in recent weeks. Our original story from Sunday follows:

A towering slab of rock broke from a cliff and toppled onto pleasure boaters drifting near a waterfall on a Brazilian lake Saturday and officials said at least six people died, per the AP. Edgard Estevo, commander of the Minas Gerais State Fire Department, said at a news conference that in addition to the dead as many as 20 people might be missing and officials were seeking to identify them. Officials said at least 32 people were injured, though most had been released from hospitals by Saturday evening. 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 at least two of the vessels. Estevo said the accident occurred between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had left.

The press office of Minas Gerais state told the AP that the fire department had deployed divers and helicopters to help. Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema sent messages of solidarity with the victims via social media. Furnas Lake, which was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric plant, is a popular tourist draw in the area roughly 260 miles north of Sao Paulo. Officials in Capitolio, which has about 8,400 residents, say the town can see around 5,000 visitors on a weekend, and up to 30,000 on holidays. 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. Earlier last year, the concern was a lack of rain as Brazil experienced the worst drought in 91 years, forcing officials to divert the water flow from Furnas Lake dam. (More Brazil stories.)

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