BEIJING (AP):Rescue workers cleared roads yesterday so they could search for survivors and rush aid to a remote mountainous area of south-western China after twin earthquakes killed at least 80 people.
More than 200,000 villagers were evacuated after last Friday's quakes toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders cascading across roads in a region of small farms and mines near the border between Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, where some of China's poorest people live.
The official Xinhua News Agency quoted local officials as saying the death toll could climb further because the quakes seriously damaged roads and communications, making it difficult to collect information.
"Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb mountains to reach hard-hit villages," Xinhua quoted Li Fuchun, head of Luozehe township in hardest-hit Yiliang County, as saying.
State television said yesterday that workers had succeeded in clearing a road into the worst-hit area that had been blocked by fallen boulders, allowing rescuers and assistance in.
Rescue work was also likely to be hampered by rain forecast over the next three days. There was, however, some uplifting news: State television reported that four babies had been born in temporary hospitals set up after the quakes.
The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. last Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon, joined by dozens of aftershocks.
Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow, which often causes more damage than deeper ones.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the quake area yesterday and was shown on television consoling survivors and walking through hospitals.
Friday's quakes were relatively shallow, about 10 kilometres (six miles) deep, creating an intense shaking despite their moderate magnitude.
By comparison, the magnitude-7.6 quake in Costa Rica this past week was 40 kilometres (25 miles) below the surface, which, combined with strict building codes, kept damage and deaths to a minimum.