Biologists and environmentalists have been racing to save fish caught up in the disaster that saw two Brazilian iron ore mines pollute the Doce river after two of their dams collapsed earlier this month, unleashing a highly toxic wave of mud.

The contaminated Doce river

The contaminated Doce river Image by Aum Soham/Twitter

The mission Noah’s Ark has been launched by biologists to attempt to save acquatic life threatened by the polluted water. Scientists have warned that the level of aluminum in the water is non-toxic to humans but harmful and potentially lethal to some fish.

Mining company Samarco, who was responsible for the ecological disaster, has put out a statement saying it has donated six 1,000-litre tanks to house the fish while they’re being removed by from the river, along with two trucks to transport them to nearby lakes.

Brazilian newspaper O Globo highlighted that there was concern among biologists that the contamination could extend as far as the sensitive Abrolhos archipelago, a collection of islands that form Brazil’s hotspot for marine life. The archipelago could now also be at risk from the mud tide.

Brazil has levied an initial fine of $66 billion to Samarco and the companies responsible for the environmental pollution. Brazil’s president Dima Roussef told the owners of the mines that the Brazilian government expected the companies to pay for rescue and cleanup efforts, as well compensation for more than 500 people who were displaced as their homes were destroyed, according to the BBC.