Dramatic video captured a massive landslide that killed at least 162 people Thursday at a jade mine in northern Myanmar after they were swept up in a “wave of mud” into a lake.
The workers were collecting stones in the Hpakant area of Kachin state, the center of the southeast Asian nation’s jade industry, when they were swept up in the cascade after heavy rain, Reuters reported.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the Fire Service said, adding that 54 injured people were taken to hospitals and an unknown number of people are feared missing.
“Other bodies are in the mud,” Tar Lin Maung, a local official with the information ministry, told Reuters. “The numbers are going to rise.”
The tragedy was the worst in a series of deadly accidents at such locations in recent years that critics blame on the government’s failure to acts against unsafe conditions.
A London-based environmental watchdog said the accident “is a damning indictment of the government”s failure to curb reckless and irresponsible mining practices in Kachin state’s jade mines.”
“The government should immediately suspend large-scale, illegal and dangerous mining in Hpakant and ensure companies that engage in these practices are no longer able to operate,” Global Witness said in a statement.
“The multibillion-dollar sector is dominated by powerful military-linked companies, armed groups and cronies that have been allowed to operate without effective social and environmental controls for years,” it added.
The military is no longer directly in power in the country, but is still a major force in government and wields authority in remote areas where social activists have complained about neglect of already weak regulations in the jade mining industry.
The most detailed estimate of the industry said it generated about $31 billion in 2014.
By late afternoon rescue workers had recovered 126 bodies, the department said, but more were missing.
Desperate miners were seen racing uphill to escape as the towering pile of black waste slipped into the lake, unleashing a tsunami-like wave of mud.
Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old miner, said he was about to snap a picture of the precarious mound when people began shouting, “Run! Run!”
“Within a minute, all the people at the bottom (of the hill) just disappeared,” he told Reuters by phone. “I feel empty in my heart. I still have goose bumps…There were people stuck in the mud shouting for help but no one could help them.”
Than Hlaing, a member of a local civil group who was helping in the aftermath of the disaster, said told Reuters the victims were freelancers scavenging the waste left by a larger company.
Official sales of jade in the country were worth $750 million in 2016-17, according to data published by the government, but Global Witness documented a $31 billion estimate in a 2015 report.
In November of that year, 113 were killed when a 200-foot-high mountain of earth and waste discarded by several mines collapsed in an accident that was then considered the country’s worst.
With Post wires