The landslide was triggered by heavy rain and swept through the site in the jade-rich area of Hpakant on Thursday morning.
Myanmar’s Information Ministry said 116 bodies had been recovered so far while local lawmaker Khin Maung Myint said another 54 people are injured. He warned that the death toll is expected to rise, but heavy rain had forced rescue efforts to be called off.
Images from the Facebook page of Myanmar’s fire service showed a rescue team pulling bodies out of the mud and carrying them up a steep rock face that appears to be flooding.
Footage reportedly from the incident appears to show a wave of water gushing through the pit. CNN has not independently verified the video.
Landslides and other fatal accidents are common in Myanmar’s gem stone mines. Located in thick, remote jungles, many of the country’s jade mines are unregulated. People working as jade pickers often labor in perilous conditions, scrambling up and down the steep hills of rubble and loose shale.
A shadowy industry
Myanmar produces about 70% of the world’s jade and Hpakant is home to the world’s largest jade mine.
Jade is believed to be one of Myanmar’s most profitable exports and worth billions of dollars, fueled in large part by demand in neighboring China.
Journalist Cape Diamond reported from Yangon, CNN’s Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong and Joshua Berlinger contributed to reporting and writing.
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