The “imminent” collapse of a salt mine in Maceio, northeastern Brazil, raises the risk of a massive “urban tragedy”, according to authorities and surrounding residents who have already been evacuated.
On Friday, the mayor of the Alagoas state capital, João Henrique Caldas, spoke on CNN of an “imminent” danger and “the largest ongoing urban tragedy in the world.”
According to civil protection officials, the preventive measures made it possible to protect residents, but they will not avert the environmental catastrophe.
Thousands of families were displaced again on Wednesday, a relocation that began in 2019 once risks were identified in this area.
The threatened neighborhoods, where about 55,000 people live in more than 14,000 residential buildings, have become empty.
Most of the mine lies below sea level, and its collapse would likely have major environmental impacts.
To explain this phenomenon, Civil Protection took a photo of the aquarium from which the drain is suddenly removed: in fact, a large amount of salt will suddenly flow into the water and disrupt the marine ecosystem.
Ground movements around the mine accelerated its descent. Its level decreased by 11.4 centimeters in the past 24 hours, also according to Civil Protection.
Since November 21, the area has decreased by 1.43 metres, according to the same source.
The salt mine in question, which produces rock salt (used to make sodium hydroxide and PVC), is one of 35 mines operated by Braskem in Maceió. The company’s majority shareholder is Novonor, formerly known as Odebrecht.
Braskem confirmed on its website that it is taking “all possible measures to reduce the impact” of the potential collapse, anticipating two scenarios: a “gradual” or “sudden” decline.
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