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Many still missing 2 months after Brazil dam collapse

March 25, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2019 file photo, helicopters hover over an iron ore mining complex to release thousands of flower petals, in homage of those who were killed or went missing after a mining dam collapsed a week prior in Brumadinho, Brazil. In late March 2019, firefighters in Brazil are still looking for 93 people who remain missing two months after the dam containing mining waste collapsed. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Thousands of people living downstream from an endangered mine dam carried out a practice drill Monday for a possible evacuation just two months after a mine collapse in the same Brazilian state killed 212 people and left 93 still missing.

The drill for as many as 6,000 residents in Barao de Cocais, some 150 kilometers (95 miles) from the dam that collapsed in January, was aimed at ensuring people know what to do if the dam that threatens them also gives way.

Mining giant Vale on Friday raised the risk level at the dam near the city to level three. According to Brazil’s mining and energy secretary, level three means that “a rupture is imminent or already happening.”

Minas Gerais state civil defense agency said in a statement that in case of rupture, the mining waste would reach the urban area of the city in an hour and 12 minutes.

Residents living in a 10-kilometre (6-mile) perimeter had already been evacuated in February. More than 440 people were relocated in temporary housing or with family members.

Residents living beyond this first security perimeter were expected to take part in the drill, Vale said in a statement.

On Jan. 25, the collapse of a Vale dam in Brumadinho unleashed a torrent of thick reddish-brown mud that covered everything in its path, destroying houses, roads and trees and contaminating nearby rivers.

The type of dam used to hold mining waste in Barao de Cocais is the same that was in place in Brumadinho. State authorities have since banned this type of construction but companies were given three years to replace the dams.