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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 27 February, 2020

Volunteers pull bodies from the rubble as death toll in Myanmar reaches 113

The mine collapse was the worst such disaster in recent memory.

Jade pickers scavenge for scrap jade in northern Myanmar (file).
Jade pickers scavenge for scrap jade in northern Myanmar (file).
Image: Associated Press

Updated 7.40am

SOLDIERS, POLICE AND and volunteers pulled body after body from the rubble in northern Myanmar today, as the death toll from a landslide near several jade mines reached at least 113, a local official said, with more than 100 others missing.

The collapse early on Saturday in Kachin state’s mining community of Hpakant was the worst such disaster in recent memory.

The corpses were taken to a nearby morgue, where friends and relatives broke down as they identified the victims.

Some were buried at a local cemetery and others were cremated. But there were stacks of unidentified bodies wrapped in blue plastic tarpaulins.

Desperately poor

Kachin is home to some of the world’s highest-quality jade, and the industry generated an estimated €30 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.

Hpakant, 950km northeast of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, is the industry’s epicentre.

But it remains desperately poor, with bumpy dirt roads, constant electricity blackouts and sky-high heroin addiction rates.

The accident occurred at a 60m-high mountain of earth and waste discarded by several mines.

Earlier, officials said the dead were mostly men who were picking through the waste and tailings in search of pieces of jade to sell. But officials said today that the accident occurred at about 3am, burying more than 70 makeshift huts where the miners slept.

Read: Families receive text messages from trapped relatives after 30 people killed by landslide>

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Associated Press

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