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The bodies of five jade scavengers killed in the latest landslide in the mines of Kachin State’s Hpakant were recovered on Thursday, according to the town’s hospital.
The victims have been identified as Sadan Khaung Khaung, 39, Tan Kung, 26, Zaw Nor, 24, Kyaw Soe Naing, 23 and Naw Mai, 20.
Dr Ye Yint Aung, deputy in charge at the Hpakant Township Hospital said the victims, all male, are believed to have died from suffocation when they were buried underneath the rubble.
“Rescue workers turned in the bodies at around 1:45am on [Tuesday] – there were five of them. They suffocated to death as their wind passages and lungs filled up with soil,” said Dr Ye Yint Aung.
A police officer in Lawng Hkang, when contacted by DVB initially after the incident, claimed all scavengers at the site survived. His claim contrasted with that of local National League for Democracy member Law Khan who said, based on accounts from witnesses, that around 40-50 people were still trapped underneath the rubble.
Meanwhile, AP reported that at least six people had been killed while dozens more had been trapped underneath the rubble, quoting a Baptist pastor organising funerals for the victims.
In Hpakant and surrounding areas, small-time miners known as ‘hand pickers’ ferret through mounds of upturned earth for small pieces of jade overlooked by the industrial operations. The unstable piles of fresh earth often cave in on themselves.
The five confirmed dead are among over 150 killed in the mines at Hpakant, the world’s largest deposit of high-quality jade, in the three months since Burma’s election. Observers say that the pace of mining has increased markedly since the National League for Democracy won the election. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has vowed to clean up the blacksite, the focus of the Burmese industry worth as much as $US31 billion per year. Resource economics watchdog Global Witness believes that two thirds of that towering sum is unregistered black market exports to China.
The area where the landslide occurred was operated by Yadana Yaungchi and Myitsone Ayar mining companies.