Death toll from Kachin landslide hits 113

YANGON — The death toll from the Hpakant mine landslide had reached 113 Monday, with dozens still missing, ranking this weekend’s disaster one of the worst to hit the country’s already notorious jade industry, relief workers said.

“We’ve heard the death toll is over 150, unofficially, but our volunteers there confirm that it is at least at 113 as of this afternoon,” Myanmar Red Cross Society deputy director Daw Moe Thida Win told Frontier.

Ten MRCS volunteers are helping to retrieve bodies from under the rubble brought down by the landslide, which occurred at 4:00am Saturday when a mountain of debris from the mines collapsed and buried the tents of some 200 workers.

“The rescue team there is likely to keep finding more bodies until tonight,” Daw Moe Thida Win said. “We’re not sure about tomorrow because the backhoes can’t dig very deep into the waste so they may stop after doing as much as they can,” she said.

According to the MRCS’s estimates there were still about 70 or 80 workers missing and believed to be buried under the landslide.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

The Kachin regional government said it would provide 100,000 kyat (US$77.50) to each of the 67 families who have been able to name their missing relatives and the MRCS is also planning to give an additional 100,000 kyat to the families.

The jade concession where the landslide occurred in Hpakant — the source of 90 percent of Myanmar’s jade — is being mined by three companies including Hlan Shan Myonwesu, Yadanar Yong Chi and Yadanar Aung Chan, the Myanmar Times reported.    

The disaster comes weeks after Global Witness, an anti-corruption non-governmental organization, released a report in late October titled ‘Jade: Myanmar’s Big State Secret’, which revealed that the country made about USD 31 billion in jade exports last year, much of it untaxed.

The report alleged that the country’s “political elite” were directly involved in the jade industry, already notorious for its record of labour abuses and dangerous working conditions.

“Big companies licensed by the government are making a killing,” said Mr Mike Davis, Asia Director at Global Witness. “They are grabbing jade worth hundreds of million a year, while leaving locals and migrant workers to run the gauntlet of deadly landslides caused by the companies’ reckless dumping practices.”

In a statement issued Sunday Davis called on the Myanmar government “to demonstrate that it is serious about ending the impunity that has turned Hpakant, the source of the ‘stone from heaven,’ into a small corner of hell for the people who live there.”

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar