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Bolsonaro thanks ‘brave troops’ as IDF rescuers end search mission in Brazil

Israeli team to head home after almost a week; 99 victims confirmed dead and over 200 more still missing

Israeli rescue specialists arrive at a site where a body was found inside a vehicle stuck in the mud, days after a dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, on January 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Israeli rescue specialists arrive at a site where a body was found inside a vehicle stuck in the mud, days after a dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, on January 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday thanked Israeli rescuers who have been searching for survivors of a deadly dam collapse, saying their mission had ended after almost a week.

A 130-strong Israeli military and search-and-rescue team landed in Brazil on Sunday and have been working to find survivors after a dam collapsed last Friday around a mining operation in a rural area of the Minas Gerais state.

The dam disaster left at least 99 people confirmed dead, with 259 missing.

“The brave Israeli troops, sent by the Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, today ended their mission in Brazil,” Bolsonaro wrote in Portuguese on his Twitter account.

“Thank you, on behalf of the Brazilian people, for your services.”

Brazil’s then President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint statement at the military base Fort Copacabana, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 28, 2018. (Leo Correa/Pool Photo via AP)

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Minas Gerais Fire Department said it’s still too early to say when the search for victims will be called off.

Pedro Aihara said it is increasingly difficult to locate additional remains. Police have identified 51 of the 84 people recovered from the mud flooding.

Police inspector Arlen Bahia da Silva said that because of the “advanced state of decomposition of the bodies,” forensic experts will have to resort to DNA tests and dental records to establish the other identities.

This satellite photo from January 29, 2019, provided by DigitalGlobe shows mud flooding an area days after a January 25 mining company’s dam collapsed, near Brumadinho, Brazil. (DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company via AP)

Authorities also warned that water from the Paraopeba River around the mining dam presents a risk to humans and animals.

Three state and federal agencies asked Wednesday that residents refrain from using water directly from the river or 100-meters (109 yards) around it.

The request was based on initial results from tests on the water.

The agencies also said that firefighters who have been in contact with the wet mine tailing should take safety precautions.

Dam owner and operator Vale SA is obligated to supply drinking water to affected communities.

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