BRASILIA (Reuters) – Two Yanomami children drowned in a river on their reservation where illegal gold miners operate a dredger, an indigenous leader said on Thursday, alleging the boys were sucked into the machine as they bathed.
Rescue divers flown in by helicopter recovered the body of a 7-year-old boy hours after a 5-year-old had been found drowned in the Parima river near the village of Makuxi Yano in northern Brazil.
Roraima state fire and rescue officials said in a statement that the indigenous community told them the boys were carried away by the river’s currents, without mentioning the dredging machine. A state government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said police would investigate the cause of death.
Dario Kopenawa, vice president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association, said via social media that the boys were playing in the river on Tuesday when they disappeared after getting too close to a dredger about 300 meters (yards) from their village.
“This is a very sad accident. The boys are our future Yanomami warriors,” he said, calling on far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to remove miners who have invaded Brazil’s largest indigenous reservation.
The government’s indigenous affairs agency Funai said it was cooperating with the authorities in the case. The Federal police did not reply to a request for comment.
An estimated 20,000 miners are working illegally in the vast territory where 25,000 Yanomami live, polluting the rivers with mercury used to separate the gold from sand, Kopenawa said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mark Potter)