China earthquake death toll rises to 94

July 23, 2013 at 6:59 AM
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BEIJING, July 23 (UPI) -- Fear of more aftershocks Tuesday gripped residents in northwest China's Gansu province as the death toll from Monday's earthquake hit 94.

As a massive rescue and relief effort in search of survivors and to relocate many of the affected residents went on, the official death toll from the disaster was raised to 94 with one person reported missing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The number of those injured was raised to more than 1,000, many of them severely.

The 6.6-magnitude shallow earthquake struck the province's two counties of Minxian and Zhangxian causing heavy damage, authorities said.

The Gansu provincial earthquake emergency response center said an initial investigation showed the quake destroyed 51,800 homes and severely damaged 240,000 others.

About 226,700 people had been relocated as of Tuesday, Xinhua said. An official preliminary assessment said the region had suffered direct losses of about $400 million.

The main concern among the rescuers, relief experts and residents were the 400 aftershocks, which have relentlessly pounded since the initial tremor, with the strongest measuring 5.6 magnitude. Experts warned more such shocks were expected.

"Four of my family's five houses were brought down in last year's mudslide, and now the quake has killed my grandchildren. I almost want to go with them," a village resident in Minxian County, where most of the deaths occurred, told China Daily.

Another woman asked: "How can I live on after two of my grandsons and one granddaughter passed away?" The newspaper said the three children were asleep when the quake struck, and adults who were in the yard could not save them.

The region had been recovering after weeks of destructive torrential rains and flooding when the quake hit and the soggy conditions hampered relief efforts, especially in the search for survivors. Prior to the quake, at least 40 people had been reported killed or missing in Minxian County due to the rains and flooding.

More rains were in the forecast in the quake-hit areas.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an all-out rescue effort, Xinhua reported. Similar calls were issued by Premier Li Keqiang, who ordered government departments to send more relief forces and materials at the earliest.

Two military helicopters and about 3,000 armed police, firefighters and soldiers were already at the scene. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has sent 10,000 tents, 30,000 quilts and 10,000 sleeping bags to the quake-hit region, Xinhua said.

The earthquake further crippled transportation and communications services, which had been affected by the rains and landslides since last week.

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