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Survivors of multiple earthquakes in southwestern China waited for shelter and other supplies on Monday amid forecasts of heavy rains that are likely to hinder ongoing search efforts.
The earthquakes on Friday in a mountainous area toppled thousands of homes and sent boulders tumbling down slopes, killing 81 people and injuring more than 800.
They struck a region of small farms and mines near the border between Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, where some of China's poorest people live.
About 60 000 residents from Jiaokui town in Yiliang county, about 3 kilometres from the epicentre of one of the earthquakes, had been evacuated to open spaces, an official surnamed Guo said by telephone from the township government office.
Guo said only the older survivors had tents, and that food, water, cotton quilts, clothes and medicine were also needed.
The official Xinhua News Agency cited local authorities as saying mobile phone services in the quake-hit areas had been basically restored.
The region was expected to be hit by medium to heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday, bringing the threat of rain-triggered landslides that could cause more casualties and complicate search efforts, Xinhua cited rescuers as saying.
Footage from China Central Television showed rescuers and sniffer dogs running past steep slopes because of the risk of fist-sized stones tumbling down. It also showed an ambulance stuck in stones and debris.
A resident of Luozehe town, close to where the quakes struck, said he and others were evacuated to a more central area of the county. “It's quite hot here. There isn't enough drinking water or tents,” said Wu Xuehong, who described seeing dead livestock after farm buildings collapsed.
More than 11 000 tents, 10 500 quilts, 6 000 coats and other supplies including bottled water and rice have been delivered to Yiliang and more are on the way, Xinhua said, citing the rescue headquarters.
The first magnitude-5.6 quake struck just before 11.30am on Friday and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow. Such quakes often cause more damage than deeper ones.
As of noon on Sunday, there had been 279 aftershocks, said Zhang Junwei, spokesman of Yunnan's seismological bureau.
Xinhua quoted Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of the county's education bureau, as saying that three students were among those who died. He said more than 300 high schools and primary schools were damaged and the education bureau would inspect schools before allowing classes to continue.
In 2008, a massive 7.9-magnitude quake in Sichuan province, just north of Yunnan, left 90 000 dead or missing, including thousands of students whose schools collapsed.
State media reported Saturday that the army and police had mobilised more than 3 200 personnel to help rescue efforts, along with 4 000 militiamen and reserve forces. That means 11 000 rescuers are attempting to clear roads, evacuate people and search for the missing. - Sapa-AP