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Sichuan earthquake leaves 203 dead and 11,500 injured as rescue teams struggle to reach survivors


Rescue teams in China are struggling to reach survivors of a powerful 6.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 203 and injured some 11,500 in remote hill villages in Sichuan province.

Emergency workers dressed in bright orange uniforms were making their way to remote areas on foot after roads were blocked by landslides.

Soldiers worked all night to search villages and treat the injured, while local people slept in shelters or cars.

Among the injured were 960 people who were seriously wounded.

Chinese PM Li Keqiang is overseeing relief efforts, and told reporters the rescue effort was “our first duty”.

Rescue teams in China are struggling to reach survivors of 6.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 203 and injured some 11,500 in Sichuan province

Rescue teams in China are struggling to reach survivors of 6.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 203 and injured some 11,500 in Sichuan province

Li Keqiang, who arrived on Saturday afternoon by helicopter to direct rescue efforts, visited hospitals and tents, and climbed on a pile of rubble to view the devastation.

Villages close to the epicentre in Lushan county were left in ruins.

A number of aftershocks followed the quake, which struck at 08:02 local time on Saturday.

“It was as if the mountain was alive,” a 68-year-old woman with a broken arm, who had lost her home, told AFP news agency.

China has received offers of help from countries including Japan, which is currently embroiled in a territorial dispute with Beijing over an island grouping in the East China Sea.

Beijing said overseas help was not needed at the moment, but added that it would contact Tokyo if that changed.

Chen Yong, the vice-director of the Ya’an city government earthquake response office, said the death toll may not rise much more.

“We understand the situation in most areas. Most of the casualties have been reported,” he said.

“In some remote mountain areas, it is possible that we don’t fully understand the situation.”

Ambulances, fire engines and military lorries piled high with supplies were waiting in long lines along blocked roads in the province on Sunday.

Correspondents say the hill villages, where farmers grow rice, vegetables and corn on terraced plots, were hit the hardest.

Kevin Xia of the Red Cross said: “Supplies have had difficulty getting into the region because of the traffic jams. Most of our supplies are still on the way.”

In Longmen village in Baoxing county nearly all the buildings were destroyed, officials said.

Rescuers were forced to dynamite boulders that had fallen across some roads, while overnight rain slowed rescue work.

A military vehicle carrying 17 soldiers came off the road, killing one soldier and injuring others.

Tens of thousands of people spent the night in tents or cars, unable to return home or too afraid to go back because of the aftershocks.

Sichuan province was devastated by a massive quake five years ago. Tens of thousands of people were killed and five million lost their homes.

Many of the collapsed buildings were schools and nurseries, leading to widespread criticism of local government’s planning policies.

However, Chen Yong said that this had not happened this time.

“The Chinese government has put a lot of money into building schools and hospitals. I can guarantee that no schools collapsed,” he said.

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