PortandTerminal.com. July 2, 2020
A landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed at least 126 people, with more feared dead. It’s not the first of this type of disaster in the country in recent years
MANDALAY, MYANMAR – At least 126 workers have been killed after a landslide at a jade mine in Myanmar today (July 2).
The miners were engulfed by a terrifying wave of mud after heavy rain throughout the night and morning.
Video footage on social media showed frantic miners racing uphill to escape as a towering pile of black waste cascaded into a turquoise lake, churning up a tsunami-like wave of mud. Some managed to run to higher ground. But many were not so lucky.
“Within a minute, all the people at the bottom (of the hill) just disappeared, There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them.” Eyewitness account
“When the open-pit mine collapsed, the workers didn’t have time to run away,” said U Tin Soe, the region’s representative in Parliament. “The height of the wave was about 20 feet and it drowned many people. It was like a tsunami.”
By late afternoon rescue workers had recovered 126 bodies, the department said, but more were missing. One official said that 100 people were still missing and 30 had been hospitalized.
The fire service said in a statement: ”The miners were smothered by a wave of mud. Police said that owners of the mine had ignored warnings not to work during the rainy weather due to the risk of landslides.
Lucrative but deadly
This latest incident was one of the worst accidents in the country’s history of jade mining, which is lucrative but highly dangerous. Jade is one of the world’s most precious stones and is sought-after in neighbouring China. Myanmar, or Burma, is the world’s biggest producer.
Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant, which draw impoverished workers from across Myanmar in search of gems mostly for export to China. But Thursday’s accident was the worst in over five years.
About 100 people were killed in a 2015 collapse which strengthened calls to regulate the industry. Another 50 died in 2019.
Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth 671 million euros ($750 million) in 2016-17, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
But rights group Global Witness says the trade is worth billions of dollars a year, funds it says fuel armed conflict between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels fighting for greater autonomy for the region.
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