MANDALAY, Myanmar – At least 113 miners were killed on Thursday and dozens are still missing in northern Myanmar after a huge pile of muddy garbage from a jade mine fell into an open pit, causing a deadly wave, an official said. .
The disaster occurred after a heavy storm in the municipality of Hpakant, in the state of Kachin, where miners work in notoriously dangerous conditions to produce jade billions of dollars.
The death toll, which is expected to rise, was confirmed by U Tin Soe, the region's parliamentary minister.
The mine waste pile, known as tailings, was over 250 feet high when it collapsed in an open pit mine, where a lake had formed from recent rains, triggering a tsunami. The wave overtook many of the miners, who drowned in the muddy water.
Video footage of the collapse showed the wave rising dozens of feet high as green water passed from one end of the mine to the other. Photos of the site showed the bodies of more than 30 miners in rows on the rocky ground, while dozens of men waited.
"At least 200 will be killed with this," said U Kyaw Min, district administrator for Wai Khar. "We are working on the rescue and collecting corpses."
He said continuous rains are hampering the search and rescue effort.
"We can't go any deeper to rescue, so we have to get the floating corpses," he added. "It is also difficult to send patients to the hospital because the roads are muddy because of the rain."
Mine collapse is a frequent occurrence in the jade mining region of Kachin state. More than 50 died in a tailings collapse last year, and dozens were swept the year before. At least 120 were buried in 2015 after a lot of tailings collapsed.
Kachin is the northernmost state in Myanmar and is bordered by China and India. The state, rich in natural resources, was plagued by fighting between military and ethnic rebels, but the lucrative jade mining area remained largely under government control.
Despite attempts to regulate the industry, much of the mining is done illegally by garimpeiros.
Saw Nang reported in Mandalay, Myanmar and Richard. Bangkok Paddock. Hannah Beech contributed reporting from Bangkok.