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China earthquake death toll rises in Yunnan and Guizhou

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Rescuers in southwestern China tried on Saturday to reach remote communities rocked by earthquakes that killed at least 80 people and damaged thousands of buildings, state media reported.

Shallow 5.6 magnitude quakes struck an impoverished, mountainous part of the country with poor infrastructure and communications on Friday and the death toll could rise as news trickles in from cut-off areas, the Xinhua news agency said.

The quakes cut off electricity and triggered landslides that blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts. Adding to rescuers' difficulties was rain which forecasters said was expected for the next three days.

State television showed crumbled walls and roads strewn with rubble and rocks. The broadcaster put the death toll at 89 earlier in the day, but later revised it to "at least 80", in line with the official Xinhua news agency's tally.

More than 800 people were injured, Xinhua said.

More than 200,000 people in Yunnan province were relocated after the quakes leveled more than 6,600 houses and damaged many more thousands of buildings. Up to 740,000 people were affected in Yunnan's six worst-hit counties, officials said.

In neighboring Guizhou province, more than 11,700 houses were damaged and the lives of nearly 28,000 people were disrupted, the state news agency and officials said.

Buildings in China's less developed regions are often built with little regard for construction standards, making them susceptible to earthquakes.

Rescuers in Yunnan said they had reached most of the worst-hit areas and the province's civil affairs department was quoted as putting direct economic losses at 3.7 billion yuan ($583 million).


September 11 2012, 11:59

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