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Rescuers hunt for survivors as China quake toll hits 80

YILIANG, China -- Rescuers searching for survivors from twin earthquakes that struck southwestern China battled blocked roads and downed communications Saturday as the death toll rose to 80.

Scores of people were leaving their homes in the mountainous border area of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, carrying their belongings amid fears of further aftershocks as volunteers with supplies streamed in the opposite direction.

Some 820 people were injured and 201,000 displaced after two 5.6-magnitude quakes struck the resource rich but impoverished region.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who visited the worst-hit Yiliang county in Yunnan overnight, urged rescue workers to redouble their efforts in the crucial first 72 hours.

“Rescuing people is the top priority,” he said in comments broadcast on CCTV news. The premier wore running shoes as he visited hospital patients and survivors camping out in tents before flying back to Beijing.

Families staying in tents said they feared their homes were no longer safe.

“The house kept shaking and as I have four children, I couldn't stay there any longer,” said a man surnamed Qing. “We experienced the earthquake and it was terrifying.”

Parents walked around carrying babies on their backs as well as big bundles of possessions. Others took bowls of instant noodles from relief workers and queued to fill them with hot water.

A 12-year-old schoolgirl named Xiaoli said she feared returning to her school, which was damaged during the quake. “We don't want to go back,” she said.

The death toll may yet rise as crippled infrastructure has made it difficult to collect information, a provincial official told state news agency Xinhua.

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In this photo provided by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, sits by an injured child and survivors of the earthquake in Yiliang County. Wen visited the quake area on Saturday and was seen on television consoling survivors after the Friday's earthquake which destroyed 6,650 houses and damaged 430,000 others, according to Yunnan's civil affairs department. (AP)

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