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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Quake Rocks Southwest China

BEIJING -- Hundreds of aftershocks Monday jolted terrified survivors of China's deadliest earthquake in eight years who braved freezing weather in southwestern Lijiang rather than enter damaged homes, officials said.


Yunnan provincial officials raced to airlift quilts, tents and medicine to hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by Saturday's tremor and to bury bodies and animals to prevent the spread of disease, officials said.


"This was the worst earthquake we have suffered," one Lijiang disaster coordination official said by telephone.


An aftershock measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale rocked the scenic mountain region of Lijiang on Monday just 30 hours after the main tremor with a magnitude of 7.0 hit on Saturday.


The main quake killed about 250 people and injured 15,000, 3,800 of them seriously, officials said.


At mid-morning, a force-4.8 tremor jolted the district 2,000 kilometers south of Beijing. The region is renowned for its beauty, with ancient ethnic Naxi villages nestled at the foot of snow-capped Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.


"It was terrifying," a local official said by telephone. "The earth just shakes and shakes. When will it stop?"


More than 312 aftershocks were recorded, causing no new casualties but further damaging buildings. More were expected.


More than 186,000 homes collapsed -- or 80 percent of the local total -- leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. Entire villages were obliterated, officials said, and those whose homes are intact were too frightened to enter.


"It doesn't matter whether people still have homes or they don't," one rescue official said. "Everyone is too scared to go inside."


Another rescue worker reached in Lijiang said Sunday's Red Cross of China appeal had triggered a flow of relief aid from Taiwan and Hong Kong but said more was needed.


Top priorities for the rescue workers are burial of bodies, caring for the injured, preventing disease and obtaining "pots to cook and rice in the pots" for the homeless, officials said.