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Rescue Workers Struggle to Reach Victims of China Earthquake

A woman looks over at her destroyed house in Gucheng village in Longmen county of southwestern China's Sichuan province, April 21, 2013.
Rescue teams in southwestern China continue to search for survivors of Saturday's earthquake, despite heavy rainstorms that have hampered the effort to reach victims.

A massive search and rescue effort is underway in Sichuan Province, a day after an earthquake flattened buildings and sent panicked residents into the streets. Chinese state media report more than 200 killed and more than 10,000 injured. Those figures are expected to rise as rescue teams reach remote villages in the mountainous region.

Luo Tongyang, a search and rescue volunteer, is less than 10 kilometers away from the epicenter of the quake, near the city of Ya’an.

He says there are five- or six-hundred people, including the elderly and the children, who are in the streets and will not go back into their homes.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the earthquake at 6.6 magnitude, while Chinese authorities say the magnitude was 7.0. Aftershocks persisted for several hours. The earthquake was centered less than 100 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu.

Cheng Dongning, a volunteer in Chengdu, says the city has not set up tents. She says since the 2008 earthquake, construction has improved in Chengdu and homes there are safe.

The massive 2008 quake in Sichuan left more than 87,000 people dead or missing. The collapse of government schools during that quake led to widespread protests of poor building construction.

Late Saturday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived via helicopter to oversee rescue efforts. State media say China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs has dispatched 30,000 tents, 50,000 cotton blankets and 10,000 makeshift beds to the area.

Luo Tongyang says volunteers are providing people with food and tents, but do not have enough supplies. Luo also says there is no place to shelter victims from inclement weather.

Rainstorms have caused more landslides in the region, slowing rescue work. A car carrying 17 Chinese soldiers to the quake epicenter fell into a river, killing two of the soldiers. Some rescue teams report having to dynamite boulders and hike for several hours to reach affected villages.

Water, electricity and gas supplies remain cut to much of the affected region.