RANGOON — At least eight people were killed Sunday after heavy rains caused a landslide in the area of the well-known Mawchi mine in Karenni State’s Hpasaung Township, according to local authorities.
Soe Moe Kyaw, assistant director of Bawlakhe District Office, told The Irrawaddy on Monday evening that eight people were killed and six others were admitted to Hpasaung hospital after the landslide that damaged or destroyed at least 30 homes.
Kyaw Htin Aung of the Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY) claimed the death toll was even higher.
As of Monday morning UKSY members had recovered 10 bodies and located three more, Kyaw Htin Aung said, adding that around 500 people had sought safe ground at a local church and high school.
The affected houses were in Yadana Aung Myay and Lay Eain Su quarters, Kyaw Htin Aung said.
“Nobody wants to live in their houses now as they feel unsafe. Our group is distributing food for [those affected],” said Kyaw Htin Aung, adding that no rescue team or aid had arrived at the time of reporting.
Soe Moe Kyaw claimed authorities had been planning to move the dwellings affected on Sunday since last year.
“Unfortunately [the landslide] happened before we moved them,” he said.
A resident of Loikaw, Thit Lwin Aung, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that heavy rain in the region had continued for three days leading up to the disaster.
A local rescue team had been deployed to the area but a damaged bridge had made it impossible to reach by car, he said.
During the colonial period, the Mawchi mine was one of the largest tin and tungsten mines in the world.
Overseen by Kayah State Mining Company, the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and the Ministry of Mining-2 in more recent years, the site has attracted criticism from local activists who have highlighted dangerous working conditions in the mine and contaminated runoff damaging surrounding lands.
Soe Moe Kyaw on Monday declined to say whether Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited was still involved in the Mawchi mine.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Mawchi was located in Bawlakhe Township. In fact, it is in Hpasaung Township. The article has also been amended to refer to a ‘landslide’ rather than a mine collapse.