China quake: Rescue teams blast roads amid aftershocks

Dynamite and heavy equipment has been used to clear roads into remote villages, says the BBC's John Sudworth

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China is continuing a massive rescue operation in Sichuan province, deploying thousands of workers, after a powerful earthquake on Saturday.

Rescue workers are using dynamite and heavy equipment to get through roads blocked by landslides to reach remote areas, reports say.

But reaching these areas has been a struggle, with bad weather and powerful aftershocks contributing to delays.

At least 188 people are known to have died in the quake, says state media.

More than 11,500 others have also been reported injured since the 6.6 magnitude quake struck at 08:02 local time (00:02 GMT).

More than 18,000 soldiers and police have been mobilised in the rescue efforts, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

Twenty-three helicopters from the armed forces were also being deployed to help out in the operations, Xinhua said on Sunday, quoting an official statement.

Seeking relief

Some of those who have been made homeless are complaining that they have not yet received food or water, says the BBC's John Sudworth in Sichuan province.

A rescue worker stands beside a truck crushed by a landslide, after Saturday's earthquake, near Lingguan town of Baoxing county, Sichuan province, 22 April 2013 Rescue workers are finding it hard to reach remote places

Rescue teams had already reached the remote villages in mountainous Baoxing County on foot, but landslides were blocking access to aid trucks and preventing some of the casualties from being brought out.

Even in the more accessible areas of neighbouring Lushan county, the aid effort has been hampered by road congestion, our correspondent adds.

Officials have set up an outdoors hospital in Ya-an, the city closest to the epicentre.

"The biggest problem is that the worst-hit spots are spread out in the mountains and it is very hard for rescuers to get the injured people out," said Zhou Shaohua, chief surgeon at the People's Hospital of Lushan.

"It takes hours for them to be able to reach a place where they can catch a vehicle."

"I dare not go anywhere near a mountainside," a woman named Zhu was quoted by Agence-France Presse news agency, in the village of Baoxing, centre of Lushan county, as saying.

"Many people are worried that the rain will bring more devastation."

Correspondents say the hill villages, where farmers grow rice, vegetables and corn on terraced plots, were hit the hardest by the earthquake.

Sichuan province was also devastated by a massive quake five years ago that claimed tens of thousands of lives and left five million without homes.

Many of the collapsed buildings were schools and nurseries, leading to widespread criticism of local government's planning policies.

Although on the same fault line, this earthquake was much less powerful than the previous one.

Once again, though, it is the poor who have born the brunt of the disaster, with the biggest killer not the earthquake itself but poorly-constructed houses, our correspondent adds.

Earthquake map

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