Brazil police charge 7 in Samarco mine deaths: reports

Brazil police charge 7 in Samarco mine deaths: reports
PHOTO: AFP

Rio de Janeiro - Brazilian police charged six executives and another suspect Tuesday over the deaths of 19 people when a wastewater dam collapsed at an iron ore mine last year, media reported.

The CEO of Samarco at the time of the November 5 tragedy, Ricardo Vescovi, was among the seven charged with homicide, Brazilian national media reported.

The others were five executives and an engineer who had certified the stability of the fatal structure, police said.

In Brazil, homicide convictions can result in prison sentences of 12 to 30 years. Police are asking for all 19 deaths - 17 confirmed killed and two listed missing - to be sentenced separately.

Police and representatives of Samarco, which is jointly owned by Brazil's Vale and Anglo-Australian giant BHP Billiton, did not respond to requests for comment.

The breaking of the tailings dam, which unleashed a massive flood of mud into the River Doce, was described as Brazil's single worst environmental disaster.

Drinking water supplies were cut for hundreds of thousands of people, a village was flattened, and local fishing and tourist businesses were badly impacted.

The government has signaled that Samarco is ready to pay 20 billion reais (nearly US$5 billion) in a settlement.

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