RIO DE JANEIRO — At least eight tourists were killed on a lake in southeastern Brazil when a rock face collapsed and struck their boat, local authorities said on Sunday.
Police have identified the first body, officials said at a news conference. The person was a 68-year-old man from the municipality of Alpinópolis.
Two people were still missing following the incident, which occurred on Saturday on the Lago de Furnas, the fire brigade of the state of Minas Gerais said. The search for them continued in the early hours of Sunday.
More than 30 people were injured, four of whom remained in hospital on Sunday.
Video images showed some stones falling from a cliff before a large part of the rock came loose completely and toppled onto excursion boats below.
Passengers on a boat farther away can be heard trying to warn others. “Move away from there!” they shouted. “There are a lot of rocks falling.” Screams can also be heard.
According to the fire brigade, two boats sustained direct hits, while another two were indirectly struck. All of the dead were on a single boat named Jesus.
Dive teams were sent to the lake, which is a popular tourist destination in the region.
“We are experiencing the pain of a tragedy in our state today, triggered by the heavy rains that caused a rock wall at Lago de Furnas in Capitólio to come loose,” Minas Gerais Gov. Romeu Zema wrote on Twitter.
The Brazilian navy, which took part in the rescue operation, announced an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.
Investigators will be tasked with clarifying whether the excursion boats were allowed to be on the lake at all in view of the weather conditions. The civil defense had warned of heavy rain.
A Facebook post published around a decade ago gained attention in the press and on social networks, in which a user warned of the danger of a rock fall at the lake.
“This rock will fall,” Flávio Freitas, a doctor, had written in March 2012, alongside a photo showing a long vertical crack in the rock face above the water.
According to experts, the heavy rain seen in the past few days was compounded by the fact that the region is essentially made up of sedimentary rock.
Pedro Aihara, spokesman for the Minas Gerais fire department, told Brazilian television: “The infiltration of water in these areas can cause the rock to lose its internal resistance. And a fracture like this can occur.”