Landslide in Myanmar kills about 100; many others missing

November 23, 2015 6:20 am

 

People look over an area covered by a landslide at Phakant jade mine, Kachin State, . Photo / AP

A landslide near a jade mine in northern Myanmar killed about 100
people, most of them villagers digging for green stones in a mountain of
displaced earth, a witness and a community leader said yesterday. Many
other people are missing.
The collapse happened on Saturday
evening in the Kachin State community of Hpakant, said Brang Seng, a
jade businessman, who watched as bodies were pulled from the debris and
taken to a hospital morgue.
“People were crying,” he said, adding
that some lost loved ones when boulders and earth ripped down the
slopes. “I’m hearing that more than 100 people died. In some cases,
entire families were lost.”
Lamai Gum Ja, a community leader, said homes at the base of the mine dump had been flattened.
An
estimated 100 to 200 people were still missing, he said. Search and
rescue teams wearing bright orange uniforms combed through the rubble
yesterday for survivors.

Kachin, about 950km northeast of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, is home to some of the world’s highest-quality jade.
The
industry generated an estimated $31 billion last year, with most of the
wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Myanmar’s former
military rulers, according to Global Witness, a group that investigates
misuse of resource revenues.

Myanmar Red Cross workers and others carry victims. Photo / AP
Myanmar Red Cross workers and others carry victims. Photo / AP
The jade industry’s epicentre, Hpakant, remains desperately
poor, with bumpy dirt roads, constant electricity blackouts and
sky-high heroin addiction rates.
After Myanmar’s former military
rulers handed over power to a nominally civilian government five years
ago, resulting in the lifting of many Western sanctions, the already
rapid pace of mining turned frenetic. No scrap of ground, no part of
daily life in Hpakant is left untouched by the fleets of giant yellow
trucks and backhoes that have sliced apart mountains and denuded
once-plush landscape.
In the past year, dozens of small-scale miners have been maimed or lost their lives picking through tailing dumps.
“Large
companies, many of them owned by families of former generals, army
companies, cronies and drug lords, are making tens or hundreds of
millions of dollars a year through their plunder of Hpakant,” said Mike
Davis of Global Witness.
“Their legacy to local people is a
dystopian wasteland in which scores of people at a time are buried alive
in landslides,” he said.

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