The landslide was triggered by heavy rains and razed the site in the jade-rich area of Hpakant on Thursday morning.
The Myanmar Fire Department said 162 bodies had been recovered as of 7:15 pm Thursday local time, and another 54 people were rushed to the hospital. Local lawmaker Khin Maung Myint warned that the death toll is expected to rise, but heavy rains forced the rescue efforts to be suspended.
Images from the Myanmar fire service’s Facebook page showed a rescue team pulling bodies out of the mud and carrying them up a steep rock that appears to be flooded.
Images from the incident appear to show a wave of water flowing through the well. CNN has not independently verified the video.
The United Nations in Myanmar released a statement saying they were “deeply saddened by the terrible loss of life due to a massive collapse at a mining site in the municipality of Hpakant in Kachin state on the morning of June 2, 2020.”
He praised the “valiant efforts of the men and women involved in the difficult rescue and recovery efforts,” extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and wished the wounded a speedy recovery.
The Myanmar military chief also sent a message of condolence after the incident.
Landslides and other fatal accidents are common in Myanmar’s gemstone mines. Located in thick, remote jungles, many of the country’s jade mines are unregulated. People who work as jade collectors often work in dangerous conditions, going up and down steep hills of rubble and loose shales.
A gloomy industry
Myanmar produces around 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 is worth billions of dollars, largely driven by demand in neighboring China.
Journalist Cape Diamond reported from Yangon, CNN’s Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong, and Joshua Berlinger contributed reporting and writing.