Discuss as:

Coal diving on the Yangon River in Myanmar

Reuters moved this nice selection of photos today by Myanmar photographer Soe Zeya Tun of men salvaging coal in the Yangon River. 

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

A diver prepares to dive in the Yangon River in search of coal from a sunken ship in Myanmar on Thursday, June 9..

According to Reuters:

Every morning and every evening when the tide is high, up to 40 boats of different shapes and sizes with crews of between four to eight people leave the former capital for the dangerous work of salvaging coal from the muddy waters of the Yangon River.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

A man holds a hose providing oxygen to a diver searching of coal from a sunken ship on the Yangon River on Thursday.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

People work on the small boats on the Yangon River in search of coal from a sunken ship on Thursday.

With flimsy-looking masks costing about $8 to $9 and attached to ropes, the divers jump into the water in search of coal from sunken ships.  It's a tiring and lethal job - many have lost their lives when their ropes break or when they get caught up in fishing nets and hooks. Many of the divers, who live in Dahla Township next to the river, have been doing the job for five or six years. "We know it's a dangerous job, but we don't know any other profession," said one.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

Diver Tin Aung Lwin wears a primitive mask as he climbs up on the boat after diving in the Yangon River in search of coal from a sunken ship on Thursday.

When coal is salvaged and sold to small time traders, the proceeds are divided into four parts - 2 parts for the boat owner, one part for the diver and the last for the crew.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

Diver Tin Aung Lwin, right, cleans his mask after diving in the Yangon River in search of coal from a sunken ship on Thursday.

The income is irregular - today, the boat was in the water from eight in the morning till two in the afternoon and yet they only found enough coal for 10,000 kyats (around $13). The divers say they earn a minimum of about 150,000 kyats a month (about $200), but in a country where rights groups say a third of the population live below the poverty line, this is a considered a good wage.