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Chinese earthquake death toll rises to 589

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Story highlights

  • Death toll from Sunday's earthquake rises to 589, with 2,401 people reported injured
  • Elderly woman rescued unharmed after 50 hours trapped beneath rubble
  • Tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed

The death toll from a 6.1-magnitude earthquake that struck China's southwestern Yunnan province on Sunday has risen to 589, with nine people still missing, China's state-run media said on Wednesday.

Among the reported deaths, 504 were in the worst-hit Ludian County and 72 in Qiaojia County. In addition to the deaths, 2,401 people were reported injured.

The epicenter of the quake was recorded in Longtoushan Township, 23 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of Zhaotong, and tremors were felt almost 200 miles away. Hundreds of aftershocks were recorded following the initial tremor. Poor weather conditions and the aftershocks hampered rescue efforts.

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One of the rescued victims, 88-year-old Xiong Zhengfen, was found Tuesday after 50 hours buried under rubble in Babaocun village, near the quake's epicenter. Doctors told local media that she was uninjured and her vital signs normal. She was taken to the county hospital after being rescued.

Beijing has allocated 600 million yuan ($97 million) for relief efforts, Xinhua reported Monday.

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    It is a fairly remote, partly mountainous area. Many live in low-rise houses made of wood and bricks or plaster, which make them prone to collapse.

    Poor housing

    The quality of the housing, along with the higher-than-average population density in the area and the relatively shallow epicenter of the quake, was said to be a contributing factor to the death toll.

    Lu Xuefeng, head of Zhaotong City's communications department, told reporters Monday that an estimated 210,000 households and almost a million residents had been affected by the earthquake.

    Some 12,000 homes were destroyed and 30,000 others damaged in Sunday's quake, according to CCTV. Tens of thousands have been relocated from structurally unsafe houses. Some roads have been destroyed and some villages remain cut off.

    The scope of the disaster meant that medical facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed. Officials from Zhaotong had urged people to give blood in order to make up a significant shortfall.

    The Chinese Red Cross has issued appeals, urging people to forget about a scandal involving the lavish lifestyle of Guo Meimei, a young socialite, that indirectly implicated the charity and led to a fall in donations.

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.1, while the China Earthquake Networks Center reported it as a 6.5-magnitude event.

    The area is a mountainous region, known for its natural scenery and ethnic diversity, but is also prone to natural disasters and lies on a major earthquake fault.

    Yunnan's neighboring province, Sichuan, witnessed a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 2008 where at least 87,000 people died.

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