Three Bodies Recovered from Hpakant Landslide

Hopes of finding the remains of a fourth man who died in the landslide are slim, according to rescue workers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The bodies of three men who were killed by a landslide in the jade-mining town of Hpakant on Saturday have been discovered following a search of the site where they died while working for the Unity mining company.

“The three dead bodies were found at around 7am today [July 15]. Local community-based organizations, firefighters and local people found them and took them out. Township authorities didn’t help,” said Nawng Latt, of the Greenland Environmental Conservation Group.

“Actually, four people disappeared in the landslide. Now there is only one person still missing,” he added.

The three men were identified as Domsa Tang, 20, of Namti; Magawng Tang Nang, 24, of Naungmee village; and Sangan Tang Gun, 40, of Mongkoe, in northern Shan State. The fourth man, whose remains have not yet been found, was Laban Tu Rein, 24, of Karmine.

According to Greenland, another man, 32-year-old Lakhawng Naw Sant of Hopin, was injured and has received medical treatment in Hpakant hospital.

The landslide occurred in Unity’s mining block in the village of Maw Mao La Yang on July 13.

“The tailings pile was about 100 feet high. Five workers disappeared under the landslide. Luckily, one was rescued by jade pickers near the site of the incident. The other four completely disappeared. Nobody could rescue them. We had to run away during the landslide. I heard that three bodies were found this morning,” said a local person who spoke to NMG.

According to Nawng Latt, it is unlikely that rescuers will be able to locate Laban Tu Rein’s body.

“It’s really dangerous because it’s so deep. So we have to wait to see if the body will come to the surface on its own. As you know, our rescue equipment is very basic. All we have to work with is a backhoe. So it’s a really difficult rescue mission,” he told NMG.

Landslides are a common occurrence in Hpakant, where mining companies rarely follow safety rules and officials seldom enforce them.

“This problem is the result of the mining companies’ lack of discipline. The authorities could easily control it with rules and regulations. Now, with the start of the rainy season, we can expect more landslides. They happen in Hpakant every year,” said Nawng Latt.

On April 22, a landslide in the village of Maw One Lay claimed the lives of more than 50 workers. Sixteen backhoes, 19 trucks and five digging machines also disappeared in that incident.

Burma’s Natural Resources and Environment Ministry has ordered all jade-mining companies in Hpakant to halt operations from the beginning of July until the end of September.