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September 21, 2017

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China quake death toll nears 600, volunteers warned away from site

LONGTOUSHAN--China The death toll from an earthquake that devastated a remote region of China jumped to nearly 600 people Wednesday, authorities said, as volunteer rescuers were warned away.

Yet some slivers of hope remained, among them the dramatic rescue of a woman who was pulled out alive from the debris 67 hours after the quake.

Rescue efforts in the southwestern province of Yunnan, where the 6.1-magnitude quake struck Sunday, were heavily hampered by traffic delays and landslides blocking roads.

At least 589 people had been confirmed killed as of Wednesday morning, China's ministry of civil affairs said on its website, marking a sharp increase in the death toll.

The ministry added that 2,401 people were injured and 230,000 had been evacuated, while more than 80,000 homes had fully or partially collapsed.

In one tale of good news from the disaster zone, rescuers freed a 50-year-old female survivor from underneath a pile of rubble on Wednesday afternoon, where she had been trapped for almost three days.

Liao Tengcui was conscious at the time of her rescue, although she had suffered from "serious injuries" and was unable to move her left leg, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Two others — a 76-year-old man and an 88-year-old woman — were also pulled out alive Tuesday night.

No explanation was given for the sudden increase from a toll of 410 given on Tuesday, though rescuers have steadily been pulling corpses from the wreckage.

"This has been terrible, I have lost colleagues, friends and witnessed so much tragedy," doctor Shang Gangzheng tearfully told AFP in Longtoushan, at the epicenter of the quake.

Around 150 blue tents have been set up in the township to provide shelter for survivors, with litter strewn across the site and a strong smell of urine emanating from a tiny creek at the back.

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