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SW China earthquakes claim 80 lives; premier visits quake zone


17:24, September 08, 2012

YILIANG, Yunnan, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Eighty people have been confirmed dead as of Saturday noon following multiple earthquakes that struck southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, local authorities said.

The death toll may climb further, as the quakes have seriously damaged telecommunications and traffic infrastructure, making it difficult to collect information, said a spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department.

Another 820 people were injured in the two quakes, which hit an area near Yiliang county in Yunnan and Weining county in Guizhou Province at 11:19 a.m. and 12:16 p.m. Friday, respectively.

More than 200,000 people in Yunnan were relocated as more than 6,600 houses collapsed and another 430,000 damaged. Direct economic losses were estimated at 3.5 billion yuan (552 million U.S. dollars), according to the civil affairs department.

In Guizhou, two people had been reported injured as of 1 a.m. Saturday, with more than 11,700 houses damaged, said the province's civil affairs department.

President Hu Jintao, who is in Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, has called for immediate efforts to help with disaster relief work.

Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the quake zone early Saturday, stressing that efforts to save lives should come first to minimize casualties.

Saying that the first 72 hours are critical for post-quake rescue operations, Wen said rescuers must make their utmost efforts to find and rescue survivors.

Wen reached mountainous Yiliang county, one of the worst-hit areas, around 1 a.m. Saturday. He has spent a sleepless night visiting quake survivors in local villages and hospitals since arriving.

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