Death Toll Rises to 10 After Slab of Rock Falls Off Cliff, Onto Boaters on Brazil Lake

At least 10 people have been confirmed dead after a massive slab of rock broke away from a cliff and collapsed into the water on nearby boaters on Furnas Lake in Brazil on Saturday, authorities said on Sunday.

The incident happened at a popular tourist destination along the Rio Grande River. Video footage shows several boats near the cliff when tiny pieces of rock start to crumble and fall off into the water below.

Boats next to the sheer rock formation were seen trying to escape when a large slab broke off and fell away from the cliff crashing toward them. The boats were then engulfed by a wave of debris.

At least 32 people were injured in the incident. Police said divers are searching the lake for more potential victims and are working to identify those who died.

Officials speculate that the walls might have become loose from heavy rainfall reported in the area. Tiago Antonelli, the head of the Applied Geology Division of Brazil's Geological Service, said it's a natural occurrence for rocks to break off cliffs due to erosion.

"It's normal to happen in many canyons, even with rocks of that size," he said. "But nowadays, with the intensification of tourism, people are starting to get closer to these places and to register these phenomena with their cellphones."

Cliff in Brazil Kills 7
A boat navigates on the Furnas reservoir on January 9, 2022, after a massive slab of rock broke away from a cliff and toppled onto pleasure boaters on January 8, killing at least 10 people near Capitolio city, Brazil. Igor do Vale/AP Photo

Police Chief Marcos Pimenta said there was a possibility that some people were missing following the accident in Minas Gerais state. The majority of the injured were released from hospitals by Saturday evening.

The accident occurred between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had left.

The bodies were taken to Passos city, where coroners worked to identify them. The work was difficult because of the ″high energy impact″ of the rock on the boaters, Pimenta said. He said one victim had been identified as 68-year-old Júlio Borges Antunes.

Furnas Lake, which was created in 1958 for the installation of a hydroelectric plant, is a popular tourist draw in the area roughly 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of Sao Paulo.

Antonelli said the cliff wall is subject to centuries of erosion and susceptible to rain, heat and cold.

Joana Sánchez, geology professor at the Federal University of Goiás, said 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 (0.6 miles) away from the waterfall where the accident happened, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.