More than 160 bodies have been found at the site where miners were collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakantarea of Kachin state when a "muddy wave" caused by heavy rain buried them.

Rescuers recover bodies near the landslide area in the jade mining site in Hpakhant in Kachin state on July 2, 2020.
Rescuers recover bodies near the landslide area in the jade mining site in Hpakhant in Kachin state on July 2, 2020. (AFP)

The battered bodies of more than 160 jade miners were pulled from a sea of mud after a landslide in northern Myanmar on Thursday, after one of the worst-ever accidents to hit the treacherous industry.

"There are so many people floating in the water," said a bystander.

Dozens "were smothered by a wave of mud," the Myanmar Fire Services Department said in a Facebook post.

"By 7:15 pm, 162 bodies were found," said the department, adding that 54 people were injured and sent to nearby hospitals.

A woman grieved over the recovered victims, as rescue workers held her up.

Dozens die each year while working in Myanmar's highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Myanmar Fire Services Department.
Dozens die each year while working in Myanmar's highly lucrative but poorly regulated jade industry. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Myanmar Fire Services Department. (Facebook/Myanmar Fire Services Department)

The disaster struck after heavy rainfall pounded the open-cast mines, close to the Chinese border in Kachin state, where billions of dollars of jade are believed to be scoured each year from bare hillsides.  

The miners were collecting stones in the jade-rich Hpakantarea of Kachin state when a "muddy wave" caused by heavy rain buried them, the fire service said in a Facebook post.

Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant. 

Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide. 

The miners were collecting stones in Myanmar's Hpakantarea of Kachin state.
The miners were collecting stones in Myanmar's Hpakantarea of Kachin state. (Facebook/Myanmar Fire Services Department)

Open jade mines have pockmarked Hpakant's remote terrain and given it the appearance of a vast moonscape. 

Fatal landslides in the area are common, and the victims are often from impoverished ethnic communities that are looking for scraps left behind by big firms. 

Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, although very little reached state coffers. 

READ MORE: Myanmar landslide kills dozens, many more feared missing

Source: TRTWorld and agencies