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113 die in Myanmar mine landslide

02 Jul 2020 14:21, Somoy English Desk
113 die in Myanmar mine landslide
113 die in Myanmar mine landslide

At least 113 people have died after a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, according to officials.

The incident took place early Thursday in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.

"The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud," the statement said. "A total of 113 bodies have been found so far."

Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide, reports Al Jazeera.

"Now we recovered more than 100 bodies," Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, told Reuters news agency by phone, "Other bodies are in the mud. The numbers are going to rise."

Fatal landslides are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.

Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner from the area 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… There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them."

The government of Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.

Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth $750.04m in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.
Northern Myanmar's abundant natural resources - including jade, timber, gold and amber - have also helped finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.

The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.

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