New landslide sweeps through Myanmar jade mine

Yangon, December 26

Rescuers were searching through mud and rubble today after a new landslide buried workers — possibly dozens — in a remote jade mining region in northern Myanmar, the second such incident in just over a month.

The landslide took place yesterday afternoon in Hpakant, Kachin State, the war-torn area that is the epicentre of Myanmar’s secretive billion dollar jade industry.

“The rescue process has now started and we are searching for bodies but we can’t tell the numbers yet,” Nilar Myint, an official from Hpakant Administrative Office, told AFP.

An AFP photographer on the scene said mechanical diggers had been brought in to sift through a huge pile of debris that had slid down a steep hillside.

Locals report as many as 50 people might have been buried by the wall of mud and stones.

But a second official involved in the rescue operation downplayed that number.

“According to what officials from nearby villages have told us, just three or four people are missing at the moment,” Myo Thet Aung, also from the Hpakant Administrative Office, told AFP. By today afternoon officials said they still had not found any bodies.

The same area was hit by a massive landslide last month that killed more than 100 people. Locals says dozens more have died throughout the year in smaller accidents.

The region is remote, with little phone coverage and poor roads making it difficult to obtain precise and swift data after such incidents.

Those killed in landslides are mainly itinerant workers who scratch a living picking through the piles of waste left by large-scale industrial mining firms in the hope of stumbling across a previously missed hunk of jade that will deliver them from poverty.