At least six people died, dozens were injured and about 20 were missing when a rock formation tore away from a cliff and slammed onto boats packed with tourists in a tragedy caught on video.
Edgard Estevo, commander of the Minas Gerais State Fire Department, said the accident occurred Saturday in a lake between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio. The local fire department deployed divers and helicopters in a frantic effort to rescue the stunned tourists from the lake.
“We are suffering the pain of a tragedy in our state due to heavy rains, which caused the loosening of a wall of stones in Lake Furnas, in Capitolio,” Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema said on social media. “I stand in solidarity with the families at this difficult time.”
Zema promised to provide “the necessary support” to families of the victims.
Brazil’s Jornal O Globo reported that two more bodies were found, raising the death toll to eight, but that report was not immediately confirmed by government officials.
“All (the) dead and three missing were on a speedboat called ‘Jesus’,” Globo reported.
The Brazilian navy was aiding the rescue and said it would investigate the accident. Video from the scene showed several small boats in a lake when a massive slab of rock tears away from the face of the cliff and slams onto at least one of the boats.
Heavy rains in recent weeks have overwhelmed the region, driving more than 17,000 people from their homes. Just two days ago, the Brazilian government issued a statement expressing gratitude to the U.S. Agency for International Development for providing funds for cleaning, hygiene and kitchen kits for those displaced by the flooding in the neighboring state of Bahia.
Capitolio is about 180 miles west of the state capital of Belo Horizonte, a city of 2.7 million people.
Furnas Lake was created in 1958 as part of a hydroelectric plant. It’s a popular tourist area, and Capitolio, which has about 8,400 residents, can draw 5,000 visitors on a normal weekend and up to 30,000 on holidays.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brazil rock collapse leaves 6 dead after cliff crashes onto boats