The death toll following an accident in which a cliff toppled over yachtsmen on a Brazilian lake has risen to 10, police said Sunday. Authorities worked to identify the dead, and divers searched the lake in case there were more victims.
Police Chief Marcos Pimenta said there was a possibility that some people were missing after the accident on Saturday in the state of Minas Gerais. At least 32 people were injured, though most were discharged from hospitals Saturday night.
The accident happened between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had departed. Video images showed a collection of small boats moving slowly near the clean rock cliff on Lake Furnas when a crack appeared in the rock and a large piece overturned on several of the vessels.
The bodies were taken to the city of Passos, where bodyguards worked to identify them. The work was difficult due to the rock’s “high energy impact” on the sailors, said a regional civilian police officer, Marcos Pimenta. He said a victim had been identified as 68-year-old Júlio Borges Antunes.
Lake Furnas, created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric power plant, is a popular tourist destination in the area about 420 kilometers north of Sao Paulo.
Officials suggested the loosening wall could have been related to recent heavy rains that caused state floods and forced nearly 17,000 people out of their homes.
The head of the applied geological department of the Brazilian geological service, Tiago Antonelli, said the rock wall is subject to centuries of erosion and susceptible to rain, heat and cold.
“It is normal to happen in many gorges, even with rocks of that size. But today, with the intensification of tourism, people are starting to get closer to these places and to record these phenomena with their mobile phones,” said Antonelli. .
Joana Sánchez, a geology professor at the Federal University of Goiás, said authorities should have checked the site to prevent accidents, especially during the rainy season. The boats should have been kept at least a mile (0.6 miles) away from the waterfall where the accident happened, she said.