Five engineers arrested in Brazil over deadly dam collapse

The task of recovering the bodies of people killed in the collapse of a dam in Brazil requires men digging down, often by hand, into mud up to 15 meters (50 feet) deep, pulling out corpses that are bagged then airlifted away by helicopter (AFP Photo/Mauro PIMENTEL)

Sao Paulo (AFP) - Five engineers, including two working for a German company, were arrested in Brazil Tuesday as part of a probe into a deadly dam collapse last week at a mine in the country's southeast, officials said.

Three of the engineers work for Vale, the owner of the mine, and were directly involved in the process of the facility's operating licenses, the prosecutors' office in the state of Minas Gerais said.

They were arrested in Belo Horizonte, the main city of Minas Gerais and close to where the Vale mine is situated, near the town of Brumadinho.

The other two worked for TUEV SUED, a German company that in September carried out the last safety inspection on the collapsed mine. They were in arrested in Sao Paulo.

They were in preventive custody which can last up to 30 days during which they would be questioned by prosecutors, a statement said. Search warrants had also been issued.

The state prosecutors said their probe was "evaluating the criminal responsibility of the Vale company" in the disaster, which happened last Friday, killing at least 65 people and leaving 279 people missing presumed dead.

TUEV SUED issued a short statement confirming the arrest of its two employees in Brazil. "Due to the inquiries under way, we are not currently in a position to provide more information. We are fully supporting the investigation," it said.

Vale, the world's biggest iron ore miner, said in its own statement that it was "cooperating fully with authorities" and was making efforts to give "unconditional" support to the families of the dead and missing from the disaster.

On Tuesday, Vale lost nearly a quarter of its value on the stock market as investors reacted to the disaster.