Soldiers, police, and volunteers pulled body after body from the rubble in northern Burma on Monday as the death toll from a landslide near several jade mines reached at least 113, with more than 100 others missing, a local official says. The collapse early Saturday in Kachin state's mining community of Hpakant was the worst such disaster in recent memory. The accident occurred at a 200-foot-high mountain of earth and waste discarded by mines. Earlier, officials said the dead were mostly men who were picking through the waste in search of pieces of jade to sell. But officials said Monday the accident occurred at about 3am, burying more than 70 makeshift huts where the miners slept.
Kachin 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. "Large companies, many of them owned by families of former generals, army companies, cronies, and drug lords, are making tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year through their plunder of Hpakant," says a Global Witness rep. "Their legacy to local people is a dystopian wasteland in which scores of people at a time are buried alive in landslides." (Last month, a report exposed how the jade trade had turned the area into "hell on earth.")