HPAKANT (Myanmar) • The battered bodies of more than 120 jade miners were pulled from a sea of mud after a landslide in northern Myanmar yesterday. This is one of the worst accidents to hit the treacherous industry.
Scores die each year while working in the country’s lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrape out a gem highly coveted in China.
The disaster struck after heavy rainfall pounded the open-cast mines, which are close to the Chinese border in Kachin state, where billions of dollars worth of jade is believed to be scoured each year from bare hillsides.
Scores “were smothered by a wave of mud”, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said in a Facebook post. Rescuers are working throughout the day to pull bodies out, it said, adding that the death toll so far is 126.
Photos on 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. They had apparently defied a warning not to work the mines during the monsoon rains, according to local police.
The workers were scavenging for gemstones on the sharp mountainous terrain in Hpakant township, where furrows from earlier excavations had already loosened the earth. Myanmar is one of the world’s biggest sources of jadeite