Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) yesterday visited earthquake victims in southwest China after twin tremors left at least 80 people dead and hundreds more injured, state media reported.
Television pictures showed Wen, who arrived late on Friday, in a tent with survivors a day after twin magnitude 5.6 quakes struck the poorly developed region where crippled infrastructure is complicating efforts to assess the full scale of the disaster.
Wen, who is a popular figure in China, and is often shown lending his support in disaster zones, made a speech at an emergency centre surrounded by rescuers.
A spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department meanwhile warned the toll could climb further because impassable roads and downed communications were making it difficult to collect information.
A total of 731 people were injured when the earthquakes struck on the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.
Yunnan’s civil affairs department said that 6,650 houses had been destroyed and 100,000 people evacuated.
The Global Times newspaper said the latest tremor again highlighted China’s continued vulnerability to natural disasters, despite decades of rapidly improving wealth and living standards in much of the country.
“A quake as strong as Friday’s ... could have caused fewer or even no casualties in a more developed region,” it said.
The Global Times said that after the latest quake, authorities should emphasise safety in future developments.