One person has died and at least 70 are missing after a landslide at a remote jade mine in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state.
Reports were scant from the area in Hpakant, which is the centre of the world’s biggest and most lucrative jade mining industry.
It is a region where sporadic fighting has broken out between the Myanmar army and ethnic guerrilla forces.
Gayunar Rescue Team official Nyo Chaw, who was coordinating the search effort, said more than 70 miners who were digging for jade were swept into a lake a couple of hours before dawn when the landslide hit.
Earth and waste from several mines around Lonekhin village slid about 200ft down a cliff and struck the miners, he said.
At least five young women and three small shops were also buried in Wednesday’s landslide. The body of a jade worker was unearthed from heavy mud by midday, Nyo Chaw said.
“About 150 rescue workers and firefighters are searching for the area and we have found the body of a jade miner so far and keep finding others,” the spokesperson told the Associated Press.
Hpakant is a mountainous and remote area in Kachin state, 600 miles north of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.
A ceasefire in the region has been disrupted since a February 1 coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government.
It has some of world’s richest jade deposits, making the industry a hotbed for corruption.
The military has said it shut down jade mining in Hpakant, but some companies have been operating illegally. The mines are also a main source of revenue for the Kachin ethnic armed group-Kachin Independence Army based in Kachin state.
On July 3 2020, at least 162 people died in a landslide in the same area, while a November 2015 accident left 113 dead.
In that case, the victims died when a 200ft-high mountain of earth and waste discarded by several mines collapsed in the middle of the night, covering more than 70 huts where miners were sleeping.
Those killed in such accidents are usually freelance miners who settle near giant mounds of discarded earth that has been excavated by heavy machinery.