2 dead, 28 missing as recovery proceeds near burst Brazil dams

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2 dead, 28 missing as recovery proceeds near burst Brazil dams
A bicycle covered in mud is seen in a street of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015. Brazil. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man cleans a street of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015, Brazil. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man cleans a street of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015, Brazil. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
A churc is seen at a muddy area of Gesterio, part of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
Red Cross volunteers try to cross a muddy area of Gesterio, part of the Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
A man works cleaning a street of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
Inhabitants and volunteers clean a street of Barra Longo city, 60 km from Mariana, Brazil on November 07, 2015, Brazil. Rescuers searched for a third day Saturday the site where an avalanche of mud and mining sludge buried a village in southeastern Brazil, as authorities struggled to pin down the number of dead and missing. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
Firemen search for survivors after a dam burst in the village of Bento Rodrigues, in Mariana, Minas Gerais state, Brazil on November 6, 2015. A dam burst at a mining waste site unleashing a deluge of thick, red toxic mud that smothered a village killing at least 17 people and injuring some 75. The mining company Samarco, which operates the site, is jointly owned by two mining giants, Vale of Brazil and BHP Billiton of Australia. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON (Photo credit should read CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images)
People remove mud from a damaged home in Barra Longa after a dam burst on Thursday in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Brazilian searchers are looking for 23 people still listed as missing following the burst of two dams at an iron ore mine in a southeastern mountainous area. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Horses struggle in the mud in the small town of Bento Rodrigues, Minas Gerais, Brazil after a dam burst on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. Mud flowed into the village 4 miles (7 kilometers) downhill from the Samarco iron ore mine in the mountainous area. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
MARIANA, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 06: Damages after a dam burst in the village of Bento Rodrigues on November 06, 2015 in Mariana, Brazil. A dam burst at a mining waste site unleashing a deluge of thick, red toxic mud that smothered a village killing at least 17 people and injuring 75. The mining company Samarco, which operates the site, is jointly owned by two mining giants, Vale of Brazil and BHP Billiton of Australia. (Photo by Bruno Drumont/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images)
Aerial view of the debris and mud on Thursday, at the small town of Bento Rodrigues after a dam burst in Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Friday, Nov .6, 2015. Brazilian rescuers searched feverishly Friday for possible survivors after two dams burst at an iron ore mine in a southeastern mountainous area. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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MARIANA, BRAZIL (Reuters) -- Brazilian authorities early on Sunday confirmed a second death caused by a massive mudflow and flooding that swamped towns near an iron ore mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

As many as 28 people are still missing after the disaster on Thursday, prompting a rescue and salvage operation involving about 500 people, many of whom are still searching, with the help of dogs and special equipment, for victims along the floodplain downstream from the dams.

The torrent, carrying water and mud stained with mineral waste from the mine, flooded areas as far as 100 km (60 miles) away from the rupture. While the surge itself has receded, authorities are expecting the residue in the mainstream of the Rio Doce to reach the neighboring state of Espirito Santo by Tuesday.

Neither authorities nor mine operator Samarco - a joint venture between the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton Ltd, and the biggest iron ore miner Vale SA -- have determined a cause for the rupture.

For more on this story, watch the video below:

Raw: Brazil Dams Burst, Submerge Homes In Mud

Official response to the disaster has so far focused on recovery. But residents, regulators, environmentalists and others across Brazil have begun questioning oversight at the mine, pointing to broader concerns about the safety and sustainability of mining, one of Brazil's biggest industries and a major source of export revenue.

On Saturday, the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported that a study commissioned by the state government in Minas Gerais in 2013 had warned that the dams that burst could be vulnerable.

On Sunday, helicopters and vehicles went in and out of an operational base set up near the mine for recovery efforts that have been slowed by heavy rains and mist. Though finding survivors is growing less likely, officials said they did not rule it out.

Of the 28 people listed as missing, 13 were mine workers.

Duarte Junior, the mayor of Mariana, the city in which the mine is based, was admitted to hospital early on Sunday for what his wife said could be a heart attack, after nearly three days of emergency work.

The governor of Minas Gerais, Fernando Pimentel, who has called the rupture the worst environmental disaster ever to affect the mining-heavy state, said in a briefing on Sunday after flying over the region that the government would begin studying what regulatory measures may have fallen short.

Though dams in the state undergo reviews by independent inspectors, more would be needed to ensure similar disasters don't happen again.

"Obviously, this wasn't enough," he said. "We have to learn the lessons of this accident and improve the emergency plans."

Pimentel, however, sought to dispel notions that environmental licensing in the state could be to blame. "There was no failure on this front," he added.

The Samarco mine is located in the so-called iron quadrangle, one of the most heavily-mined regions in the world.

In the third quarter, according to output data reported by Vale, the Samarco mine produced 3.9 million tonnes of iron ore pellets, a 3.3 percent increase from a year earlier.

At a time when iron ore prices have collapsed compared with historic highs in recent years, cleanup and other costs related to the disaster, including regulatory penalties and any litigation Samarco may face, are expected to be high.

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