China sent thousands of soldiers and earthquake rescuers to the Sichuan province after a dangerous quake killed at least 188 people and injured more than 11,000. It is the deadliest earthquake the country has seen in the past three years.
More than 2,000 aftershocks have rattled the area, The China Earthquake Administration said.
Mountain roads blocked by rocks and landslides hampered rescue efforts to reach every village and household affected by the quake — measured at magnitude-6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey — that struck Saturday morning in the same region where a 2008 quake took nearly 90,000 lives.
Some 18,000 soldiers and armed police were sent to the disaster zone in sourthwestern China, and 10,000 had already reached seriously affected areas, the Chengdu Military Area Command said Sunday.
The Chengdu Military Area Command also said it would send 23 helicopters. As of 4:30 p.m. local time Sunday, the Chinese air force had sent 106 planes for rescue missions, including personnel and material transportation.
An emergency rescue team with 200 workers organized by the China Earthquake Administration (CEA), joined their provincial counterparts in the quake zone Sunday afternoon, but bad weather delayed plans to reach hard-hit Baoxing County, which has had little contact with the outside world, according to the CEA.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited injured survivors Sunday before returning to Beijing, where Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China does not currently need foreign rescue teams or medical and relief supplies. Qin said the country has guaranteed rescue and medical treatment capability and sufficient rescue materials.
Luo Shiqiang sat near chunks of concrete, bricks and a ripped orange sofa and told the Associated Press how his grandfather was just returning from feeding chickens when their house collapsed and crushed him to death in the earthquake.
“We lost everything in such a short time,” the 20-year-old college student said Sunday. He said his cousin also was injured in the collapse, but that other members of his family were spared because they were out working in the fields of hard-hit Longmen village in Lushan County.