Dozens feared dead after landslide in Burma

YANGON, Burma -- Dozens of people are missing and feared dead after a landslide struck a remote jade mining region in northern Burma, the second such incident in a month, officials said Saturday.

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The landslide occurred Friday in Kachin state's mining community of Hpakant, said Khin Maung Myint, a local member of the opposition National League for Democracy party. He joined rescue crews on Saturday, but said the steep terrain was complicating search efforts.

According to rescuers, one body was pulled from the rubble and at least 30 people were missing, he said.

Police said they could not yet confirm any fatalities.

Tin Tun Aung, a Hpakant township policeman, said search operations continued all day Saturday without any discovery of bodies.

"We are still trying to dig up the landslide," he said. "We don't know yet if there are dead people inside or not. We're doing it because we are worried people could be trapped inside."

A Nov. 21 landslide in the same region killed more than 100 people and highlighted the perilous conditions created by a breakneck effort to dig up the world's richest deposits of jade.

Most of the victims in last month's disaster were itinerant jade pickers and their families who made a living scavenging for scraps of jade in the debris left behind by mining companies.

Kachin state is home to some of the world's highest-quality jade, and the industry generated an estimated $31 billion last year, with most of the wealth going to individuals and companies tied to Burma's former military rulers, according to Global Witness, a group that investigates misuse of resource revenues.

Hpakant, 950 kilometres (600 miles) northeast of Burma's biggest city, Yangon, is the industry's epicenter. But it remains desperately poor, with bumpy dirt roads, constant electricity blackouts and sky-high heroin addiction rates.


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