The bodies of at least 160 jade miners were pulled from mud on Thursday after a landslide in northern Myanmar, officials say.
The incident took place early in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud, which hit after heavy rainfall,” the statement said, adding a “search and rescue is ongoing.”
Videos of the incident on social media show a massive landslide pouring into a large flooded pit. The sides then collapse sending water surging into the valley below.
Rescue work is continuing for people still missing at the site.
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Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner, told Reuters he saw a towering pile of waste close to collapse and people were shouting “run, run”.
He said, “Within a minute, all the people at the bottom [of the hill] just disappeared. I feel empty in my heart… There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help, but no-one could help them.”
Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant. More than 100 people died last year alone at mining sites.
Media have reported scores of people killed in Hpakant in recent years, many of them freelance “jade pickers” who scour tailings – the residue from mining – for stones that have been missed by larger operators.
Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth 671 million euros ($750.04 million) in 2016-17, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.
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