As teams kept up a desperate search and rescue effort for survivors in the southwestern province, hit by a 7-magnitude quake Saturday, provincial officials said post-quake reconstruction work cannot wait.
The quake -- though lesser in intensity than the far more destructive one in the same province in May 2008 -- left 21 missing and injured nearly 13,500, latest official figures said. The 2008 earthquake killed or left missing more than 87,000 people.
The latest disaster affected about 2 million people and forced about 295,000 people from their homes.
While no dollar estimate of the damage has yet been made, Sichuan Deputy Gov. Zhong Mianh said the quake destroyed at least 186,300 rural buildings and seriously damaged about 430,000 homes, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Along with shortages of essential items -- including drinking water, makeshift toilets and medicines -- necessary to efforts to head off an outbreak of disease, the thousands of rescue and medical personnel assisted by military personnel also contended with broken roads, landslides in the inaccessible hilly areas and worse of all, thousands of aftershocks.
Rescuers still managed to save more than 470 people from the rubble. Zhong said the "golden rescue time" -- the first 72 hours after the quake, after which the chance of survival was substantially diminished -- had passed.
He said about 295,000 people in the quake-stricken region have been relocated and 69,000 tents, 217,000 quilts and about 2,351 tons of drinking water had been sent to the affected areas.
Xinhua quoted bloggers in the quake-hit regions as saying they had not received enough food and other supplies.
Zhong said supplies were taking longer to reach them as roads there were still being hit by falling boulders loosened by aftershocks. Where possible, the supplies were being airlifted by helicopters, he said.
Zhong said personnel would be sent to speed up repairs of damaged reservoirs and water supply systems so drinking water in the region can be available soon.
China Daily reported the newest concern is the onset of the flood season, which would add to the risks in the quake zone and hamper reconstruction work.
One official told the newspaper investigations had revealed more than 1,900 high-risk flood spots in Lushan and Baoxing counties, the two worst hit by the quake.
Zhong said heavy rains are common in those areas during the flood season, raising the threat of devastating geological disasters.
"My family has stored some food, but we cannot get to it because our house was smashed by a huge rock, so I have to borrow grain from relatives," a Baoxing county resident was quoted as saying.
China decided not to invite international disaster relief teams as the quake only struck a relatively small area, a official with the China Earthquake Administration told China Daily.
In other developments, two successive earthquakes measuring 4.8 and 4.2 magnitude jolted Yibin city in Sichuan province Thursday morning, injuring 47 people and damaging thousands of homes, China's Central Television reported. The city is about 300 miles from Lushan county.
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