At least thirteen people died in a series of landslides around the mining town of Hpakant in Kachin State, Myanmar, on Friday 22 June 2018. Four people are known to have died in a landslip on a spoil heap in the Sithu Mining Block, and it is feared that others may be unaccounted for in this incident (spoil-heap workers, known as Yay Ma Say, are often reluctant to discuss their activities with outsiders, even rescue workers, due to the legally dubious nature of the work), while seven are known to have died in a similar incident at Seikmu, while two women died in a flash flood the town of Hpakant itself.
Houses undermined by a flash flood in Hpakant, Myanmar, on 23 June 2018. Myanmar International Television.
Myanmar is the world's largest producer of jade, though much of this is produced (along with other precious and semi-precious minerals such as amber) at unregulated (and often illegal) artisanal mines in the north of the country, from where it is smuggled into neighbouring China. Accidents at such mines are extremely common, due to the more-or-less total absence of any safety precautions at the site. At many sites this is made worse by the unregulated use of explosives to break up rocks, often leading to the weakening of rock faces, which can then collapse without warning. The majority of people in this industry are migrant workers from the surrounding countryside, not registered with any local authority, which can make it difficult for rescuers to identify victims following such events, or even gain accurate assessments of the number of people likely to have been involved in such accidents.
The incidents occurred following several hours of rain in the area associated with the Southeast Asian Southwest Monsoon, which has also caused a series of landslips and flash floods in the area.
The approximate location of the town of Hpakant. Google Maps.
Diagrammatic representation of wind and rainfall patterns in a tropical monsoon climate. Geosciences/University of Arizona.
The winds that drive the Northeast and Southwest Monsoons in Southeast Asia. Mynewshub.
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