Death toll rises to 10 after rock wall fell on boaters in Brazilian lake: NPR

A boat sails on the Furnas Reservoir on Sunday after a massive slab of rock detached itself from a cliff and tipped over on boaters on Saturday, killing at least 10 people near the city of Capitolio, Brazil.

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Igor do Vale / AP


A boat sails on the Furnas Reservoir on Sunday after a massive slab of rock detached itself from a cliff and tipped over on boaters on Saturday, killing at least 10 people near the city of Capitolio, Brazil.

Igor do Vale / AP

BRASILIA, Brazil – The death toll in an accident in which a slab of cliff spilled onto boaters on a Brazilian lake has risen to 10, police said on Sunday. Authorities worked to identify the dead and divers searched the lake in case there were more casualties.

Police chief Marcos Pimenta said it was possible that some people were missing after Saturday’s crash in Minas Gerais state. At least 32 people were injured, although most were released from hospitals on Saturday evening.

The accident occurred between the towns of Sao José da Barra and Capitolio, from where the boats had departed. Video footage showed a gathering of small boats moving slowly near the sheer rocky cliff of Furnas Lake when a crack appeared in the rock and a huge chunk spilled onto several of the ships.

A tourist boat sails through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near the city of Capitolio, Brazil, on September 2, 2021. A huge rock slab broke off the canyon wall on Saturday and overturned on boaters, killing at least six people and injuring dozens in the popular tourist destination of Minas Gerais state.

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A tourist boat sails through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near the city of Capitolio, Brazil, on September 2, 2021. A huge rock slab broke off the canyon wall on Saturday and overturned on boaters, killing at least six people and injuring dozens in the popular tourist destination of Minas Gerais state.

André Penner / AP

The bodies were taken to the town of Passos, where coroners worked to identify them. The job was difficult due to the rock’s “high energy impact” on boaters, regional civilian police official Marcos Pimenta said. He said one of the victims was identified as Júlio Borges Antunes, 68.

Furnas Lake, which was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric power station, is a popular tourist attraction in the region located about 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of Sao Paulo.

A tourist boat sails through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near Capitolio City, Brazil, September 2, 2021.

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A tourist boat sails through a canyon in Furnas Lake, near Capitolio City, Brazil, September 2, 2021.

André Penner / AP

Officials have suggested the wall that came loose may have been linked to recent heavy rains that caused flooding across the state and forced nearly 17,000 people to leave their homes.

The head of the applied geology division of the Brazilian geological service, Tiago Antonelli, said the cliff face is subject to centuries of erosion and sensitive to rain, heat and cold.

“It is normal that this happens in many canyons, even with rocks of this size. But nowadays, with the intensification of tourism, people are starting to get closer to these places and to record these phenomena with their cell phones, ”said Antonelli.

Joana Sánchez, professor of geology at the Federal University of Goiás, said authorities should have checked the site to avoid accidents, especially during the rainy season. The boats should have been kept at least one kilometer (0.6 mile) from the waterfall where the crash occurred, she said.

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