More bodies buried in a mass grave after the collapse of the jade mine in Myanmar

(Reuters) – Dozens of jade miners killed in a landslide in northern Myanmar were buried Saturday, a local official said, after 77 were buried Friday in a mass grave in one of the worst mining accidents in the history of the country.

FILE PHOTO: Volunteers carry coffins containing bodies of victims after a landslide at a mining site in Hpakant, Kachin State City, Myanmar, July 3, 2020. REUTERS / Stringer

More than 170 people, many of them migrants seeking fortune in the japa-rich Hpakant area of ​​Kachin state died after mining debris crashed into a lake on Thursday, causing a surge of mud and water. .

Miners were collecting stones in Hpakant, the center of Myanmar’s secret billion-dollar jade industry, when the wave crashed over them, burying them under a layer of mud.

Thar Lin Maung, a local information ministry official, told Reuters by telephone that 171 bodies had been removed but more were floating to the surface.

He said the 77 people buried on Friday had been identified. Another 41 were buried Saturday, another local official said. The volunteers carried plywood coffins and placed them in a mass grave dug by excavators near the mine site.

Dozens more were cremated according to Buddhist traditions in a hillside cemetery. Among them was Saw Myint Tun, 21, a university student who had traveled hundreds of miles from his home in Rakhine state, his family told Reuters.

Her brother-in-law, Hla Shwe Win, said one of her brothers had also died in the disaster, while another was injured.

They had followed him to Hpakant to work in the mines, Hla Shwe Win said, as the women wept over the coffin before burning it according to Buddhist traditions.

“They came here, counting on me,” he told Reuters, saying there were no words to describe how he felt.

Many other bodies, mistreated and stripped of their clothes by the force of the wave that hit them, have not been identified.

Myanmar supplies 90% of the world’s jade, the vast majority exported to neighboring China, which borders Kachin state. Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in mines, which attract impoverished workers from all over Myanmar.

Around 100 people died in a 2015 crash that sparked calls to regulate the industry. Another 50 died in 2019. Thursday’s landslide was the worst in memory.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday blamed the disaster on unemployment in the country, lamenting in a Facebook live broadcast that informal workers had to go to the mines for lack of other employment.

The government announced the formation of a committee to investigate the disaster.

Activists say little has changed in the industry, despite the Suu Kyi government’s promise to clean it up when it took office in 2016.

The human rights group Global Witness said the landslide was a “damning accusation of the government’s failure to curb reckless and irresponsible mining practices.”

“Neither a new promised gemstone law, passed by parliament in 2019, nor a gemstone policy that has been in production for several years has yet been implemented,” the group said in a statement.

He says the trade is worth billions of dollars a year, the funds he says fuel the armed conflict between government troops and ethnic Kachin rebels fighting for greater autonomy for the region.

Christian Schmollinger and William Mallard edition

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