Twenty eight people have now been confirmed dead as a result of a disastrous landslide in eastern Burma on Sunday.
Rescue workers in the town of Mawchi, Karenni State are working around the clock to pull victims from the thick mud and debris. Ten bodies were uncovered from the wreckage on Tuesday night.
Troops from a local Burmese army unit have now joined locals in efforts to rescue as many people as possible. But almost three full days after the landslide struck the mining town, many are still unaccounted for.
“A mother and son are still missing, buried in the rubble and we have been unable to find them. In sector-13, two women were found – one died at hospital and the other is now at the community centre. Rescue workers are making arrangements to move the bodies out,” said one man helping with rescue efforts.
Another man said he has lost everything.
“I woke up to see my son under the debris, part of his head was trapped. I was in a shock, staring at him and then I realised that was my son and immediately pulled him out. His head was crushed,” he told DVB on Wednesday morning.
“My wife at that time was out collecting soil to reinforce the foundations of our house when she saw the electric pylons from Lawpita hydropower station leaning, so she ran away. Then she looked back and saw the whole area coming down behind her. We don’t know where our daughter is now,” he said.
As the landslide struck Mawchi, 500 persons were forced to flee the oncoming mud and debris. At least 30 homes were completely destroyed, and scores more damaged.
Those displaced are now sheltering in relief camps set up at a mining site office, a school and the local hospital. There they wait for information from rescue crews continuing to dig for survivors.
“Two people died in sector-13, one more person still missing and another sustained a head injury,” confirmed another rescue worker.
“Yesterday, we hauled two people to the hospital – one died on the way and another died after arriving at the hospital. Four bodies have been recovered in the Aungchanthar area. A 13-year-old patient who had been at hospital before the incident also died. This is the information I have so far. Also, up on the hill, we are still searching for a woman and two children. We don’t know whether they are dead or alive at this time.”
It remains unclear whether mining operations led to or exacerbated Sunday’s disastrous landslide.
Home to large deposits of minerals tin and tungsten, Mawchi in Karenni State’s Hpasaung township has been a mining hub since the colonial era.
Mawchi mine is the largest running operation in the region and is monopolised by the Kayah State Mining Company Limited, military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and the No 2 Mining Ministry.
Australian firm Eumeralla Resources last year confirmed a 70/30 contract with local partner Myanmar Energy Resources Group to explore a 400 km² area in Karenni State.
In a statement to DVB on Wednesday in regards to the Mawchi landslide, a spokesperson for Eumeralla Resources said, “This is not in our application area, and we have not started any exploration work [there].”