China Quake Rescue Efforts Continue as Death Toll Passes 400

Chinese rescue workers continue searching for survivors in the thousands of homes that collapsed following a powerful earthquake Sunday in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Authorities on Tuesday said the death toll has risen to 410, with 12 people still missing from the 6.1-magnitude quake that was centered near the remote town of Longtoushan.

Lieutenant Colonel Yang Tianjun, who is helping lead rescue operations, said he has not given up hope that some victims who are buried under the rubble have survived.

"The priority for us now is search and rescue, and we hope to find some survivors. This place (Longquan Community) is the most devastated place in the town and many victims are buried in the debris, so this is the main area for us to search and rescue. We just found another two bodies of earthquake victims, there are two more victims down there and we will try to drag them out," said Yang.

The official Xinhua news agency says the quake destroyed 80,000 homes and damaged another 124,000. Nearly a quarter of a million people have been displaced.

More than 18,000 rescue workers have been deployed to the area.

Efforts to send tents, water, food and other supplies have been hampered by heavy thunderstorms, which are expected to continue for the next several days, causing landslides and floods.

Xinhua says damaged roads forced Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to walk nearly five kilometers to reach Longtoushan Monday. Li vowed that no effort would be spared to save lives.

The news agency says it was the worst earthquake to hit the region in 14 years.

Southwestern China is frequently struck by earthquakes. In 2012 an earthquake in the Yunnan region killed at least 80 people. 

VOA News / Aug. 06, 2014 07:58 KST