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Two dead, unknown number missing in Myanmar jade mine landslide

[YANGON] Rescuers continued to comb through rubble Thursday for victims of a landslide at a jade mine in war-torn northern Myanmar that killed at least two people, according to police.

An unknown number of miners are missing after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Hpakant town in Kachin state on Tuesday evening, a local police officer told AFP.

The landslide is believed to have occurred after debris heaped beside the mine collapsed after it was loosened by heavy rains.

"Two dead bodies have been found. We are still trying to search for others but there is a lot of rubble. We don't know how many people are missing," he said, requesting anonymity.

"Rescue teams are using hoes to search for the missing people. We don't have a list of people who are working... they are transient workers... whenever an accident happens, it's difficult to get exact figures." He added that mining accidents were common in the area with several recent fatalities caused by landslides.

Up to 90 percent of the world's jadeite - the most sought-after type of jade - is mined in Hpakant, feeding a vast appetite for the green stone in Asia, particularly in China where it is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring better health.

The famously murky jade trade in resource-rich Myanmar has seen lower sales in recent years in part because of an upsurge in fighting in Kachin.

But it remains highly lucrative and observers say a slice of all jade revenue finds its way into the pockets of Kachin rebels who have a large presence in the area.

Some 100,000 people have been displaced in the state since a 17-year ceasefire between the government and ethnic Kachin rebels broke down in June 2011.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks with an uptick in violence between the army and rebels in the region, near the border with China.