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Brazilians take on Braskem in Dutch court over city of cracks

Brazilians take on Braskem in Dutch court over city of cracks
By Reuters
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(Corrects currency of potential damages to Brazilian reais from euros in second paragraph after PGMBM amendment)

By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON -A group of Brazilians seeking to sue petrochemicals giant Braskem SA in the Netherlands, after tremors and gaping cracks forced thousands to abandon their homes, will hear in September whether the test case can proceed.

Law firm PGMBM, which is bringing the case against Braskem and its Dutch subsidiary in a Rotterdam court on behalf of 11 people, said 10,000 more could join the claim and sue for billions of Brazilian reais in damages if Dutch judges agree to hear the case.

Tremors struck the city of Maceio in Brazil's northeastern coastal state of Alagoas in 2018 near salt mines operated by Braskem, sending wide cracks up buildings and opening up sink holes. Around 50,000-55,000 people have been forced to move.

Braskem, which has disputed that salt mining caused the damage, declined to comment on ongoing litigation.

Latin America's largest petrochemical company has ceased salt mine extraction in the area, says it is committed to people's safety and has set aside 12 billion reais ($2.42 billion) for redress, to stabilise salt shaft cavities, monitor the area and repairs.

Over 14,000 families have received relocation support and around 13,000 have agreed to financial compensation, it says.

But PGMBM partner Pedro Martins said a Dutch claim under Brazilian law, which imposes strict liability for environmental damage, is necessary because compensation offers to date are too low and routes to legal redress in Brazil too lengthy.

One of three Brazilian claimants to address the Dutch court this week said he had lost two thirds of his clients because of the disaster and was suffering from severe anxiety.

"My life will never be the same again," said José Ricardo Batista, 56. "The amount offered by Braskem as compensation is disrespectful to me and to my family."

($1 = 4.9540 reais)

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