Thursday, July 9, 2009

Death Toll In Floods And Landslide Rise To 70 In Hpakant

The death toll has risen to 70 in the aftermath of floods and landslides in Burma's Hpakant jade mining area in the country's northern Kachin State on July 4 and 5. Hundreds have been injured including over 10 people from local Kachin Baptist Churches, according to official figures available from Burmese Army authorities.

The floods and mudslides were the biggest ever witnessed in Hpakant jade land. The devastation was said to have been caused because the ruling junta has been allowing indiscriminate jade mining activities with sophisticated machines following the ceasefire agreement between the regime and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in 1994, said local environmentalists.

The death toll was compiled till yesterday by the administrative office of the Hpakant Jade Mining City also called the City Peace and Development Council (Ma Ya Ka) of the junta, said Hpakant residents.

The search for bodies in jade land is underway and an additional 30 bodies were found under soil and slush dug out from the jade mines yesterday evening, a resident of Hpakant told KNG today.

Eyewitnesses said they saw dozens of bodies being carried in trucks while people were searching for more bodies under the soil heads which came crashing down in the heavy downpour.

Most of the deaths resulted from the mudslides because of the high land dug for the jade mines and because most villages were constructed on low land near the Uru River, according to residents of Hpakants.

The Hpakant government hospital is full of people with injuries as of Saturday night but a callous Burmese military authority is yet to launch any rescue mission for the victims, said residents of Hpakant.

Residents expect the death toll to touch several hundred because over seven main jade mining villages were severely affected by the flood from the Uru River which brought down heaps of soil and mud dug out from thousands of jade mines near their villages.

The three major jade mining cities of Hpakant, Lonkin (also called Lawng Hkang in Kachin) and Seng Tawng were flooded by the Uru River. However the water is receding since yesterday, added residents.

Private and non-government rescue and relief missions were started yesterday in some of the flood and landslide affected areas like Hpakant city, Maw One, Seng Tawng and Lonkin after the rain and floods stopped, said locals.

Soon after the floods, the Hpakant Regional Kachin Baptist Convention under the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), the biggest Kachin Christian body in the country formed an emergency committee. It is implementing rescue and relief missions, said a KBC staff member in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

Roads in most villages in Hpakant jade land are covered with over three-foot of mud and slush allowing only ferry transportation, said local residents.

Residents of Hpakant city are now busy cleaning their inundated homes. They are facing an acute shortage of clean water, said residents.

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