At least 113 people were killed in a landslide in a jade mine in northern Myanmar on Thursday, with more people feared after a pile of mining waste fell into a lake and triggered a wave of mud and water that buried many workers.
The miners collected stones in the Jpak-rich Hpakant area of the state of Kachin, when the "mud wave" hit them after heavy rain, the fire department said in a Facebook post.
Rescue workers recovered 113 bodies, but more were missing.
"Other bodies are in the mud," Tar Lin Maung, a local information ministry official, told Reuters over the phone. "The numbers will increase."
Fatal landslides and other accidents are common in Hpakant's poorly regulated mines, which attract impoverished workers from across Myanmar. However, this is the worst in more than five years.
A collapse in 2015 killed around 100 people, increasing the need for industry regulation.
Media has reported on dozens of people killed in the region in recent years, including many freelance "jade pickers" who search for waste – residues from mining – for stones overlooked by larger operators.
Social media video footage showed wild miners running uphill to escape when a towering pile of black waste fell into a turquoise lake and whirled up a tsunami-like mud wave.
Photos showed rows of corpses laid out on a tarpaulin-covered hill.
Maung Khaing, a 38-year-old local miner who witnessed the accident, said he was taking a photo of the precarious garbage hill that was about to collapse when people started shouting, "Run, run ! ".
"All of the people at the bottom of the hill disappeared in a minute," he told Reuters on the phone. "I feel empty in my heart. I still have goose bumps … There were people in the mud calling for help, but nobody could help them."
As Hlaing, a member of a local civil society group that helped after the disaster, said Thursday's casualties are freelancers who collect the waste from a major mining company. She said that about 100 people were still missing and 30 had been hospitalized.
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's government promised to clean the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.
Official sales of jade in Myanmar in 2016-17 were € 671 million ($ 750 million). This emerges from data released by the government as part of a transparency initiative for raw materials industries.
However, experts believe that the real value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much greater.
When Hlaing said a local official warned people not to go to the mine on Thursday due to bad weather.
"There is no hope for families to receive compensation since they were freelance miners," she said. "I don't see a way to escape this type of cycle. People take risks, go to landfills because they have no choice."