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Bento Rodrigues dam disaster facts for kids

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Bento Rodrigues, Mariana, Minas Gerais (22828956680).jpg
The village of Bento Rodrigues after the disaster
Date 5 November 2015 (2015-11-05)
Location Germano mine complex, Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Type Dam failure
Cause Unknown
Participants Samarco (Vale, BHP Billiton)
Deaths 19
Non-fatal injuries 16+
Property damage Two villages devastated, around 200 homes destroyed

The Bento Reodrigues dam disaster happened on 5 November 2015, when a dam at a Germano iron ore mine broke. The disaster is also known as Mariana dam disaster, or Samarco dam disaster. It happened in a mine near Mariana, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The flooding devastated the downstream villages of Bento Rodrigues and Paracatu de Baixo, 40 kilometres (25 mi) from Bento Rodrigues, killing 19 people. The damage caused by the tailings dam collapse is the largest ever recorded with pollutants spread along 668 kilometres (415 mi) of watercourses.

The failure of the dam released 43.7 million cubic metres of mine tailings into the Doce River. A toxic brown mudflow polluted the river and beaches near the mouth when it reached the Atlantic Ocean 17 days later. The disaster created a humanitarian crisis as hundreds were displaced and cities along the Doce River suffered water shortages when their water supplies were polluted.

The total impact of the disaster, including the reason for failure and the environmental consequences, are officially under investigation and remain unclear. The owner of the Bento Rodrigues dam, Samarco, was subject to extensive litigation and government sanctions. In 2016, charges of manslaughter and environmental damage were filed against 21 executives, including Samarco's former CEO and representatives from Samarco's owners, Vale and BHP Billiton, on its board of directors. Controversy over the investigation grew after a 2013 report, indicating structural issues in the dam, was leaked.

Satellite images of Bento Rodrigues and the Germano mine before and after the disaster, displaying the flooding and pollution of the Doce River.
An abandoned car caught in the mudflow amidst the ruins of Bento Rodrigues
Satellite image of the mouth of the Doce River in Linhares, Espírito Santo, where fine waste in suspension reached the southern Atlantic Ocean

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