By Shoon Naing
NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – More than 50 people were feared to have been killed in Myanmar when jade miners and machinery were buried under a mound of tailings late on Monday, a member of parliament and a rescue worker said.
Three bodies had been pulled from the debris, Tin Soe, a lawmaker representing the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state in the north, said on Tuesday.
Deadly landslides and other accidents are common in the poorly regulated mines of Hpakant.
A total of 54 workers for two mining companies, along with 40 machines and vehicles including backhoes and trucks, were trapped when the large refuse pile collapsed late at night on Monday, he said.
“They won’t survive. It is not possible because they are buried under mud,” Tin Soe told Reuters by phone. “It is very difficult to retrieve the bodies.”
Hpakant’s fire brigade chief, Aye Thein, said a search was mounted after dawn on Tuesday and rescue efforts were going on.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information confirmed on Facebook that 54 workers were missing. It identified the companies involved as Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung and Myanmar Thura.
Reuters was unable to reach either company for comment.
Environmental advocacy group Global Witness put the value of jade production in Myanmar at about $31 billion in 2014. Experts say most of the stones are smuggled to China.
(Reporting by Shoon Naing; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Robert Birsel)