The deadly hunt for jade in Myanmar

Posted by Ed 48 days ago
Si Thu Phyo was scavenging for leftover gemstones when he felt the earth shake loose around him.

The 21-year-old was hard at work in one of the world's largest jade mines, in Kachin State in northern Myanmar. He was just one of hundreds of jade pickers in the pits that day. He tried to run, as the landslide crashed down, but before he could escape he was engulfed by a wave of water, mud, and stone.

Si Thu tumbled under the water. "My mouth was full of mud, the stones were hitting me and the waves pushed me under again and again," he said. "I thought I was going die."

But Si Thu swam his way out. Later, in hospital, he learned that seven of his closest friends didn't. They were among an estimated 200 people who had died in the nation's worst ever mining landslide.

"We lived like brothers, often sleeping in the same bed," Si Thu said quietly, recalling his friends.

From his cramped home, which he shares with nine family members, he can see the mountain where he was searching for stones that day.

"I feel guilty for being the one who survived," he said. "I wish this tragedy is a bad dream and I wake; no landslide and my friends are back."

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