Sao Paulo, Jan 8 (EFE).- Five people were killed when part of cliff overlooking a lake in southeastern Brazil collapsed onto three pleasure boats, authorities said.
“Five deaths are confirmed and we are working with the possibility of 20 people missing at this time. We are gathering information to certify that those people were in the area,” the head of the fire department in Minas Gerais state, Edgard Estevo, told a press conference.
All but nine of the 32 injured survivors of the disaster have already been treated and released, he said.
Two of the three boats struck by the giant slab of rock when it came tumbling down at around 11:00 am were completely submerged.
Established in 1958 to power a hydroelectric plant, Lake Furnas brings thousands of weekend visitors to Capitolio, a small town some 280 km (174 miles) from Belo Horizonte, the state capital and Brazil’s sixth-largest city.
A video circulating on social media shows the moments before the impact, as the boats nearest the cliff face attempted to move away from the shore amid warning cries from the occupants of craft just outside the danger zone.
First responders planned to continue the search for more potential victims until nightfall.
The canyons around the lake are formed by sedimentary rock that is “more susceptible to the action of wind and rain,” fire department spokesman Pedro Aihara told GloboNews television.
“We are in a very rainy period, which could have accelerated the penetration of the water in the rock structure,” he said.
The Brazilian navy said it planned to investigate the tragedy, while Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema offered condolences to loved ones of the victims.
“I stand with the families in this difficult moment. We will continue acting to provide the necessary support and protection,” he said. EFE cms/dr