A week after the collapse of a mining dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, dozens paid homage yesterday to the 115 people killed and 248 still missing, while newly released video footage showed the moment that a powerful wave of waste began sweeping over everything in its path.

A ceremony was held at the site of the disaster around 1pm local time, the hour at which the dam breached on January 25, unleashing a destructive torrent of reddish-brown mining waste.

Backhoes stopped digging in the mud and rescuers looking for survivors in the thick mine tailings all looked to the sky as 10 fire department and police helicopters released flower petals on the iron ore mining complex.

A priest gave a brief Mass in front of a tall pink cross that had been planted in the mud.

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"It is totally devastated; it looks like there has been a war," said 23-year-old Edvan Cristi, who lost friends who worked at the mine.

A spokesman for the Minas Gerais Fire Department said authorities were not calling off the search for bodies although no one had been found alive since Saturday.

On Friday, firefighters began excavating the mud with heavy machinery.