Myanmar search for dozens missing in landslide

2 bodies recovered but search suspended due to possibility of further collapses at nearby piles in jade-rich north Kachin

Myanmar search for dozens missing in landslide

World Bulletin / News Desk

Rescuers have recovered two bodies after a landslide in a remote jade mining region in Myanmar’s north and suspended search operations although dozens are believed to still be missing, according to authorities Friday.

At least 30 people are missing and feared dead after a 400-foot (122-meter) cliff of debris and waste soil collapsed Thursday in Hpakant Township of northern Kachin State.

A local police officer, Tin Tun Aung, said on Friday, “rescue workers found two bodies yesterday [Thursday] evening, but then had to suspend the searching due to the potential of further collapses of the piles nearby.

“They can’t resume the search yet,” he said by phone.

“The search for the victims is going to end like before,” he said, referring to a previous minor landslide in the area Dec. 21.

Local media reports said more than 10 people were missing after the landslide, however, no one was rescued and no body recovered as search operations ended in hours due to a landslide at another pile nearby.

The Hpakant area, the epicenter of a jade industry located around 600 miles (966 kilometers) northeast of Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon, has seen about ten landslides since October, when jade mine companies resumed operations at the end of the rainy season.

Deadly landslides are a common hazard in Kachin’s jade and gold mining 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.

At least 115 people were killed in a massive landslide in November last year, just days after the long-time opposition party National League for Democracy won the election in a landslide.

According to Myanmar Red Cross Society, more than 300 people were killed in 38 landslides at jade mines in Kachin last year.

The current government, led by State Counselor 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.

An anti-corruption non-governmental organization, Global Witness, released a report in October last year revealing that the country made around $31 billion in jade exports last year, much of it untaxed.

The report, titled Jade: Myanmar’s Big State Secret, alleged that the country’s “political elite” -- closely tied to the former junta -- were directly involved in the industry.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Aralık 2016, 10:28