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113 bodies recovered in Myanmar jade mine mudslide

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: Fire Services Department Handout

At least 113 are dead after a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar. The Myanmar Fire Services Department says that the incident took place early today in the jade-rich Hpakant district of the northern Kachin state after a heavy rainfall. Photos in the post showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.

“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud. A total of 113 bodies have been found so far.”

“Now we recovered more than 100 bodies,” a local official with the information ministry told Reuters 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.

A 38 year old miner who witnessed the incident says he spotted a tall pile of waste that appeared to be 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. 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.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government promised 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 million US dollars (23.3 billion baht) in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government. Experts say 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 and the military. The fight to control the mines and the money they bring frequently traps locals in the middle.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera | Newsvoice

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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