“More disasters” possible after cliff collapse kills 10 tourists, expert warns

The collapse of a cliff that left 10 dead in Brazil on Saturday was caused by torrential rains and more disasters could be on the way, meteorologist Estael Sias told AFP. Two months of downpours have caused deadly flooding in several Brazilian states, including Bahia in the northeast and Minas Gerais in the southeast, where a huge column of rock crashed down on tourist boats on Furnas Lake.

Dramatic videos posted to social media captured the moment the cliff collapsed.

According to Sias, who works for the state meteorology agency Metsul, global warming is provoking an ever greater number of natural disasters.

“There is certainly a relationship” between the heavy rains and the cliff collapsing, Sias told AFP.

“It is a fact that the long and intense period of rains generated an infiltration of water in the rocks that caused the rocks to move and the fall of the cliff face,” he said. “Several videos show that minutes earlier there was a huge amount of rain falling down the waterfalls in the region putting great pressure on the rocks.”

Canyon rock face collapses on tourists at Brazil waterfall
Firefighters of Minas Gerais state search for victms after a wall of rock collapsed on top of motor boats below a waterfall in Capitolio, in Minas Gerais state, Brazil January 8, 2022.  FIRE BRIGADE OF MINAS GERAIS via Getty

President Jair Bolsonaro retweeted some of these videos on his account, and said that “as soon as the unfortunate disaster occurred, the Brazilian Navy moved to the site to rescue victims and transport the injured.” In a statement, Bolsonaro said officials would “investigate the causes and circumstances” of the deadly incident.

Sias said heavy summer rains are caused by the South Atlantic Convergence Zone (ZCAS), a phenomenon created by a humid corridor from the Amazon rainforest meeting a cold front from the South.

That generates large amounts of rain that result in frequent floods or landslides in several states.

Another meteorological phenomenon, called “La Nina,” which provokes a cooling of the Pacific Ocean causing heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought in others, also contributes to an increased rainfall.

Heavy rain is forecast for the next 10 days and “unfortunately, the could mean more disasters,” said Sias.

Less rain is expected in the second half of January but “February and March remain periods of high rainfall.”

“The extremes that we’ve registered throughout the whole world in the last two years have been ever more frequent with historic heat events, ever more recurring rains, and given that the last two years have been the two hottest in the history of the planet, it is difficult to separate phenomenon like ZCAS … with global warming, which is the fuel that accentuates extremes throughout the planet.”

Canyon wall collapse in southeastern Brazil
Vanessa Oliveira Ferreira, 33, mother of a 14-year-old boy, awaits at the Legal Medical Institute (IML) the release of bodies to continue with the burial after a giant rock collapse that fell on top boat on the Lake Furnas in Capitolio, on January 09, 2022, in Passos, Brazil.  Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The head of the Applied Geology Division of the Brazilian Geological Service, Tiago Antonelli, told the Associated Press the cliff wall is subject to centuries of erosion and susceptible to rain, heat and cold.

“It’s normal to happen in many canyons, even with rocks of that size. But nowadays, with the intensification of tourism, people are starting to get closer to these places and to register these phenomena with their cell phones,” Antonelli said.  

Joana Sánchez, geology professor at the Federal University of Goiás, told the AP that authorities should have been controlling the site to prevent accidents, especially in the rainy season. The boats should have been kept at least one kilometer away from the waterfall where the accident happened, she said.  


Hippo Sighting Report

Help us out, we really appreciate it.

Help contribute to our research, and let us know if you have seen similar situations that we may have missed. Our team will review the details you provide and add to our main list once we verify the information.

stay informed

Subscribe and get the updated Hippo List.

Get notified when we release our updated lists by email.

Make a Donation

Thank you for subscribing!

We will send you an email to confirm your details.  Welcome aboard!

Thanks for sending us your report.

We will review your information, and publish in on our list once we validate the details.