At least 14 people have been confirmed dead and dozens are feared missing after a landslide at a jade mine in Myanmar’s restive Kachin State.
A local police officer told Turkish media on Friday that the accident occurred when a 300 foot cliff (91.44 metres) collapsed late Thursday in Hpakant Township in northern Kachin.
“Fourteen dead bodies were recovered. Four other people were slightly injured, and taken to the hospital,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The search for those missing started Friday at 6 am but was ended at 1:30pm, leaving dozens still missing.
“No one will know exactly how many were killed and are missing as most are undocumented workers from across the country,” said Aye Cho, a resident of Hpakant town.
Deadly landslides are a common hazard in Kachin’s jade and gold mine industry as people living off the industry’s waste pick their way across perilous mounds under the cover of darkness, driven by the hope they might find a chunk of jade worth thousands of dollars.
More than 100 people were killed in a massive landslide in November last year.
Myanmar’s new government, led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, has pledged to tighten safety measures, however the jade industry is dominated by companies linked to leaders of the previous military government and ethnic rebel armies.
Tin Soe, lower house lawmaker representing Hpakant Township, said Friday that the government must reduce jade production in Kachin state.
“Excessive production of jade damages the environment and biodiversity in the area, and creates very dangerous conditions for workers,” Tin Soe told Turkish media by phone from Nay Pyi Taw.
“I hope the government will grant no more licenses to mining companies, and tighten safety measures otherwise such incidents are inevitable."