More than 50 people were feared dead after a landslide in northern Myanmar engulfed jade miners while they were sleeping, the latest deadly accident in a notoriously dangerous industry.

The accident took place near Maw Wun Kalay village in Hpakant township at about 11:30pm local time (17:00 GMT) on Monday when a mud-filter pond, situated in an old mining site, collapsed.

A total of 54 staff from two private companies were buried under a mound of mining waste along with 40 machines and vehicles, said Tin Soe, a local official.

“They won’t survive. It is not possible because they are buried under mud,” Tin Soe told Reuters News Agency by phone. “It is very difficult to retrieve the bodies.”

Kyaw Swa Aung, the township’s administrator, told the Anadolu news agency a search operation was ongoing. “Three dead bodies have been recovered from the mud,” he said.

Dozens die each year in landslides caused by jade mining, a poorly regulated industry rife with corruption and sandwiched between the country’s borders with China and India.

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At least 20 people have been killed so far this year in collapses and landslides at mining sites, according to the Hpakant township office.

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