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Brazil: Rock breaks off cliff and falls on boaters, killing at least seven

A towering boulder broke off a cliff Saturday and fell on pleasure boaters floating near a waterfall on a Brazilian lake, leaving seven dead and three missing.

Minas Gerais fire chief Edgard Estevo told a news conference that officials were trying to identify the victims. Another nine people were seriously injured.

Video footage showed a collection of small boats moving slowly near the sheer cliff on Lake Furnas when a fissure appeared in the rock and a huge chunk fell directly on at least two of the ships.

The site of the disaster in Minas Gerais. Photo: Fire Department Minas Gerais/AFP/Getty Images

Estevo said the accident happened between the towns of Sao Jose da Barra and Capitolio, from which the boats had departed.

The Minas Gerais state news agency told the Associated Press that the fire service had deployed divers and helicopters to help. The governor of Minas Gerais, Romeu Zema, sent messages of solidarity with the victims via social media.

Furnas Lake, called the “Sea of ​​Minas”, is a popular tourist attraction in the area about 420 km (260 mi) north of São Paulo.

The state of Minas Gerais has been dealing with torrential rains that have displaced nearly 17,000 people from their homes due to flooding, according to the state’s civil defense.

Officials suggested the earlier rains could have contributed to the wall’s loosening.

The Brazilian Navy, which also assisted in the rescue, said it would investigate the causes of the accident.