At least 50 people have died after a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, according to officials.
The incident early on Thursday took place in the jade-rich Hpakant area of Kachin state after a bout of heavy rainfall, the Myanmar Fire Services Department said on Facebook.
“The jade miners were smothered by a wave of mud,” the statement said, putting the death toll at 50. “The search and rescue process is still ongoing.”
Photos posted on the Facebook page showed a search and rescue team wading through a valley apparently flooded by the mudslide.
Fatal landslides are common in the area, the victims often from impoverished communities who risk their lives hunting the translucent green gemstone.
Media have reported scores of people killed in Hpakant in recent years, many of them freelance “jade pickers” who scour tailings – the residue from mining – for stones that have been missed by larger operators.
Official sales of jade in Myanmar were worth 671 million euros ($750.04m) in 2016-2017, according to data published by the government as part of an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
But experts believe the true value of the industry, which mainly exports to China, is much larger.
Al Jazeera and news agencies