Rescue workers cleared roads Saturday so they could search for survivors and rush aid to a remote mountainous area of southwestern China after twin earthquakes killed at least 80 people.  

More than 200,000 villagers were forced from their homes after 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.  

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted local officials as saying the death toll could climb further.

The damage also slowed rescue efforts.  

"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 Saturday 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.

Twin quakes, dozens of aftershocks

The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon, joined by dozens of aftershocks.


A woman helps children after an earthquake hit Luozehe town in southwest China's Yunnan province. (Associated Press)

Zhang Junwei, a spokesman for the Yunnan Seismological Bureau, said Saturday that 80 people had died and 821 others had been injured.

Television footage showed heavy equipment being used to clear roads littered with rocks and boulders.    Though quakes occur in the area frequently, buildings in rural areas and in fast-growing smaller cities and towns are often constructed poorly.

A magnitude-7.9 quake that hit Sichuan province, just north of Yunnan, killed nearly 90,000 people in 2008.