Over 100 killed in Myanmar landslide

Cheryl Sanders
July 3, 2020

Heavy monsoon rains created a "muddy wave" which trapped workers and scavengers at the site at roughly 8am local time on Thursday in the jade-rich Hpakant area in the northern Kachin state.

"A total of 113 bodies been found so far", Myanmar Fire Service said in a Facebook post.

The area is 950 kilometers (600 miles) north of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, and is the center of the world's biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry.

Than Hlaing said a local official had warned people not to go to the mine on Thursday because of the bad weather. The search was ongoing, he said.

About 100 people were killed in a collapse in 2015, which strengthened calls to regulate the industry.

Hundreds of miners were feared buried as the landslide took place during their work hours, but the exact number of casualties are yet to be known and rescue works are being carried out, a township police official told Xinhua.

Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner who witnessed the accident, said he spotted a towering pile of waste that looked on the verge of collapse and was about to take a picture when people began shouting "run, run!".

"Within a minute, all the people at the bottom (of the hill) just disappeared...", he told Reuters by phone. 'I feel empty in my heart.

"I still have goose bumps", he said.

Photos shared by the Myanmar military news site showed mud-slaked and bloodied bodies of miners laid out in grim rows under tarpaulins, some missing shoes as a result of the force of the wall of mud which hit them.

Than Hlaing, a member of a local civil society group helping in the aftermath of the disaster, said about 100 people were still missing.

Dozens die each year while working in the country's highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrape out a gem highly coveted in China.

Although official figures place the sale of jade at almost €700 million ($790 million) annually, independent estimates suggest the industry is worth more than €30 billion.

In its statement Thursday, Global Witness blamed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, which came to power in 2016, for failing "to implement desperately needed reforms, allowing deadly mining practices to continue and gambling the lives of vulnerable workers in the country's jade mines".

Jade is believed to be one of Myanmar's most profitable exports and worth billions of dollars, fueled in large part by demand in neighboring China.

"There's no hope for the families to get compensation as they were freelance miners".

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