July 3. 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.
Scores die each year while working in the country’s lucrative but poorly regulated jade trade, which uses low-paid migrant workers to scrape out a gem highly coveted in China.
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 is believed to be scoured each year from bare hillsides.
“There are so many people floating in the water,” said a bystander.
Rescue workers, including the fire department and local police, worked throughout the day to pull bodies out of a mud lake under a continuous deluge of heavy monsoon rain.
“By 7:15 pm, 162 bodies were found,” said the department, adding that 54 people were injured and sent to nearby hospitals.
Mud-slaked and bloodied bodies of miners were laid out in grim rows under tarpaulins, some missing shoes as a result of the force of the wall of mud which hit them.
“We can’t dig and find the bodies buried underwater… so we are just picking up the dead bodies that float,” he told AFP, adding that rescue efforts will be further hampered as night falls.
The victims had apparently defied a warning not to work the mines during the monsoon rains, local police told AFP.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “deeply saddened” by the deaths and said his organisation was ready to help those affected, a spokesman said.