Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived in the earthquake disaster zone in remote western China as the mass cremation of victims begins. The quake toll has risen to more than 1,700 dead.

Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his trade talks visit to South America to fly into remote Yushu County to inspect the relief effort.

State media said president Hu chaired a meeting of China's top leaders Saturday, urging all-out efforts for the quake response before flying from Beijing.


Officials said despite difficulties, urgent food, shelter and medical supplies were getting through to most survivors.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs' Zou Ming says most victims in the quake hit area now have access to clean water and other basic needs. He says many are now living in tents. Zou says getting aid to the region remained a problem, however.

Hu's visit follows that of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who spurred on the relief effort last Thursday.

Despite early difficulties reaching the worst hit areas on the high altitude Tibetan plateau, including altitude sickness among rescuers, authorities say the relief operation is in full swing. But hundreds in hard-to-reach places remain without desperately needed food and shelter.

Some non-government aid agencies have set up distribution centers outside badly affected Gyegu to avoid looting and fights over food that they say have occurred in the town.

Tibetan Buddhist monks, many of whom have arrived in the area on pickup trucks from other Tibetan regions, have helped remove the bodies of those killed in the earthquake. They say they have cremated more than 1,000 bodies.