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Armed police rescue the wounded after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake on Aug. 3 in Zhaotong, in China's Yunnan province. / Getty Images

BEIJING - Firefighters rescued more than 30 people Monday trapped in rubble from a strong earthquake that hit southern China, even as the death toll rose to nearly 400 people.

The magnitude-6.1 quake that struck the mountainous region in Yunnan province on Sunday has killed at least 398 people and injured more than 1,800, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 2,500 troops were sent to assist local firefighters and other emergency workers in impoverished Ludian County, where 12,000 homes collapsed in the quake.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also arrived in the region Monday to direct relief efforts, Xinhua said.

Rescuers digging through the debris freed a 5-year-old boy with leg injuries. In addition to freeing 32 people from the rubble, firefighters also retrieved the bodies of 43 residents, Xinhua said.

Delivering relief supplies, including tents, to the worst-affected areas remains highly challenging after landslides and ongoing rainstorms. The forecast calls for more rain over the next few days.

"The blocked roads and the continuous downpour have made some disaster areas inaccessible for the relief vehicles," Liu Jianhua, the senior official in Zhaotong as head of the city's Communist Party committee, told Xinhua.

Ma Yaoqi, 18, a volunteer in the quake zone, told the Associated Press by phone that at least half of the buildings had collapsed on the road from the city center of Zhaotong to the hardest-hit town of Longtou. The rest of the buildings were damaged, she said.

"I saw dead bodies being wrapped in quilts and carried away," said Ma, who arrived with 20 other volunteers Monday. "Some were wrapped with small quilts. Those must be kids."

Overhead footage shot by state broadcaster CCTV showed older houses flattened but newer multistory buildings still standing.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.1 quake struck at 4:30 p.m. local time Sunday. The China Earthquake Networks Center measured the quake as a magnitude of 6.5 and said the epicenter was in the city of Zhaotong.

It was the strongest quake to hit Yunnan province in 14 years, CCTV said.

Yunnan province is a known earthquake belt and one of China's poorest areas.

In 2008, a massive earthquake in neighboring Sichuan province left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

A relaxing Sunday afternoon in the town of Huodehong became a terror-filled tragedy for the Wang family.

When the quake struck, about 20 members of the family were enjoying the hot springs in the mountain village before a planned evening barbecue, according to the official Yunnan.cn website. While they and more than 300 other visitors were soaking in the town's sulfurous pools, rocks from the surrounding cliffs crashed down on the bathers, turning the pools bloody, Wang Xiong said.

Wang grabbed his child and ran to a nearby square, ignoring the pain after a rock hit his right ankle. There he found found his great-aunt on the ground, her belly smashed by a large rock. She died before reaching a hospital, Wang told the website.

Contributing: Sunny Yang; the Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: China rescues 32 from rubble after quake kills hundreds

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