Frightened survivors of China quakes await supplies

Survivors of two earthquakes that killed at least 81 people in a rural mountainous area of southwest China are desperately waiting for more aid to arrive as jolting aftershocks hinder rescue efforts.

At least 81 people killed in mountainous area

Residents cross a bridge with their blankets and pillows after staying out for a night following an earthquake in Yiliang, Yunnan province. (Wong Campion/Reuters)

Survivors of two earthquakes that killed at least 81 people in a rural mountainous area of southwest China were desperately waiting for more aid to arrive Sunday as jolting aftershocks kept fears high and hindered rescue efforts.

The earthquakes struck Friday in a region of small farms and mines near the border between Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, where some of China's poorest people live. Officials have said the death toll could rise because the quakes seriously damaged roads and communications, making it difficult to collect information.

The quakes toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders cascading across roads, and authorities evacuated more than 200,000 villagers.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said a 2-year-old child died after being buried under a fallen wall as an aftershock struck Yunnan on Saturday night, becoming the 81st fatality from the quakes.

The area was still being jolted by aftershocks Sunday, raising fears of more injuries.

Residents rest in a stone cave, now a temporary shelter after two earthquakes hit Yiliang, Yunnan province. (Wong Campion/Reuters)

Television footage from China Central Television showed rescuers and sniffer dogs running past steep slopes because there was a risk of fist-sized stones racing down. It also showed an ambulance stuck in stones and sand.

Almost all of the 110,000 people who live in Yiliang county's Jiaokui town, about three kilometres from the epicentre of one of the earthquakes, had evacuated, but many had no shelter and were waiting for supplies, said a town official.

"They are living in open space now," the official, who gave only his surname, Xiao, said by telephone. "We are in dire need of tents and quilts. We only received 2,200 tents. Many people have no quilts and are not living in tents."

Rescue work is continuing in spite of the aftershocks, which killed one person and injured 29 others on Saturday, Xiao said.

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. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow, which often causes more damage than deeper ones.

There have been 279 aftershocks since Friday's earthquakes, said Zhang Junwei, spokesman of Yunnan's seismological bureau.

State media reported Saturday that the army and police had mobilized more than 3,200 personnel to help with rescue efforts, along with some 4,000 militiamen and reserve forces.