BEIJING (AP) - Relief workers trying to reach mountain villages devastated by an earthquake in China's southwest used horses Wednesday after landslides blocked roads. The official death toll stood at 16 and was expected to rise.
The magnitude-6.2 quake in Yunnan province Monday night knocked down thousands of mud-brick houses as people slept. But a local official said the death toll was low because many others were outdoors enjoying a cool evening after a hot day.
"Thanks to the hot summer, many people were going to bed late,'' said the official reached by telephone at the government offices of Dayao County, where the quake was centered. He would give only his surname, Zhou.
Landslides triggered by heavy rains blocked roads, hampering emergency shipments of tents, food and bedding, Xinhua said.
Relief crews were making their way to the isolated area from the provincial capital of Kunming, about 180 kilometers (110 miles) away.
"All the relief materials could only make their way to the quake victims living in the remote mountainous areas by men and horses,'' the agency said.
Zhou and the government's China News Service said 16 people were confirmed dead. More than 390 people were injured, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
"We estimate the death toll will rise,'' Zhou said.
News reports said thousands of homes were destroyed, but the exact extent of the damage wasn't clear. Xinhua described the destruction as 5,000 "rooms'' of housing and said 69 schools were destroyed and 18 reservoirs damaged.
The quake was centered near the town of Tanhua. The area, about 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) southwest of Beijing, suffers frequent earthquakes. - AP
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