DVB Multimedia Group

Mawchi mudslide: Death toll rises to 18

Mawchi in the aftermath of the landslide. (PHOTO: DVB)

The death toll from the devastating mudslide in Mawchi has risen to 18, with dozens left homeless in the Karenni State town, according to relief workers.

Kyaw Tin Aung, a senior member of the Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY) group, which has been assisting relief efforts in the mining town, said, “As of Monday evening, 13 bodies had been recovered by police, and five were later unearthed by local villagers. Five other persons have been listed as missing.”

According to the local Baptist Church, 11 people are missing as of 7pm on Monday. A search mission is still underway.

Naw Anne, a resident of nearby Lohka village, said residents are living in fear of more landslides as heavy rains continue.

“The number of people left homeless has increased steadily,” she said. “There are about 1,000 refugees in Lohka alone.”

She said aid workers are struggling to access the area due to the disruption of transportation routes by the landslides.

State-run media announced that 396 people aretaking shelter at relief camps in the area, and local schools have temporarily closed.

Mawchi is home to tin and tungsten mining operations, and in the 1930s, under British administration, was the most important source of tungsten in the world.

Australian firm Eumeralla Resources last year confirmed a 70/30 contract with local partner Myanmar Energy Resources Group to explore a 400 km² area in Karenni State. It is at present unclear whether the firm has yet carried out any exploration work or mining in the Mawchi area.

In 2012, a Karenni women’s group called for a halt to the expansion of tin mines in Mawchi, calling the enterprise an “environmental disaster”. However, nothing at this stage points towards mining as a cause of yesterday’s mudslides.