More than 50 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mine

Myanmar officer said 54 people are still missing in the mud. (AFP)
Updated 23 April 2019

More than 50 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mine

  • Authorities have only recovered two bodies
  • The area was mined by Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies

YANGON, Myanmar: More than 50 people were feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping, local police said Tuesday, the latest deadly accident in a notoriously dangerous industry.
Dozens die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a poorly regulated industry rife with corruption and sandwiched between the country’s borders with China and India.
Local police described a freak accident in Kachin state on Monday night so big it created a huge “mud lake” that buried the miners as well as some 40 vehicles.
“Fifty-four people are missing in the mud,” a duty officer from Hpakant township police station told AFP, asking not to be named.
“There’s no way they (the missing) could have survived.”
Only two bodies had been recovered so far.
The Ministry of Information confirmed the accident and number of missing, adding that the area was mined by Myanmar Thura Gems and Shwe Nagar Koe Kaung companies.
Myanmar Thura Gems director Hla Soe Oo told AFP by phone he was on his way to the site and had no further details.
Local media shared images, unverified by AFP, that showed the walls of a mine stretching vertically a couple of hundred meters above a vast pool of mud, revealing only the tops of two yellow excavation vehicles.
Hundreds of onlookers gathered nearby, staring at the site and taking photos with their phones.
The open jade mines in Kachin’s Hpakant township have turned the remote area into a vast moonscape-like terrain.
Fatal landslides in the area are common with victims often from impoverished ethnic communities looking for scraps left behind by big firms.
A major collapse in November 2015 left more than 100 dead.
In July last year, the bodies of 23 landslide victims were recovered after a days-long search hampered by heavy monsoon rains.
The jade industry is largely driven by insatiable demand from neighboring China, where the translucent green gemstone has long been prized.
Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, although very little reaches state coffers.
Northern Myanmar’s abundant natural resources — including jade, timber, gold and amber — help finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military.
The fight to control the mines and the revenues they bring frequently traps local civilians in the middle.
A 17-year cease-fire broke down in 2011, and since then more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting — some of them multiple times.
On coming to power in 2016, civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi promised to make the peace process with the country’s myriad armed groups her top priority — a pledge that has yet to yield significant results.


Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

Updated 28 May 2020

Italy’s Muslims help needy on Eid

  • ‘We give for the sake of solidarity,’ says Islamic center president

ROME: Muslim communities around Italy marked the end of Ramadan with displays of unity and generosity.

During the holy month, most communities have been involved in fundraising and food distribution for families struggling amid the two-month national lockdown to halt the coronavirus pandemic. 

With many mosques following stringent social distancing rules, Eid Al-Fitr celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan were mostly held outdoors, in parks or squares, to avoid the risk of infection.

In Vigevano, near Milan, more than €5,600 ($6,000) collected during Eid Al-Fitr prayers and celebrations was given to 190 local people in need.

“We celebrated the end of the holy month as well as the end of the fast in accordance with the new security measures required by the government,” Koutir El-Mostafa, president of the Islamic El Medina cultural center, told a local newspaper.

“Everyone made some contribution when they arrived for the communal prayer. They gave what they could, even two or three euros each, for the sake of solidarity and to help those in need during this difficult time.

“In the community, we have a list of families who live in hardship. Of course, their situation became worse with the coronavirus pandemic. We will help them all and do our best,” El-Mostafa said.

The cultural center reopened after national lockdown measures were eased in mid-May.

“We could have reopened from May 18, but in order to guarantee a safe and healthy environment we decided to wait. The center is now open, but I cannot bring in all the people who come to pray,” El-Mostafa said.

Sunday prayers were held in a large parking lot with social distancing measures in place. However, children, many mothers and those aged over 70 were encouraged to stay home.

The Mosque of Mercy in Marghera, an area that includes Venice’s industrial harbor, reopened, but Eid Al-Fitr celebrations were not held inside, with the local Islamic community praying at home.

However, worshippers plan to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr in coming weeks in the park of San Giuliano, the site of last year’s gathering.

“People called us from all over northern Italy asking to come and pray at the mosque in Marghera, but we preferred to be responsible and avoid situations that could result in gatherings and put us in difficult situations,” Sadmir Aliovsky, president of the Islamic Community of Venice, said.

Now the mosque is finally open, a temperature scanner has been installed at the entrance and shifts have been organized for prayers to limit the number of people congregating at the same time.

A video in Italian has been prepared for first-generation Muslims and converts to explain the rules and protocols.

Worshippers will be required to bring personal mats, children will not be allowed entry, and people showing signs of a fever will be sent home.

Venice’s Bengali community celebrated Eid in the Kolbe center, a large hall in a city hotel rented for the occasion.