The death toll from an earthquake that devastated a remote region of China jumped to nearly 600 people on Wednesday, authorities said, as volunteer rescuers were warned away.
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.
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.
In Longtoushan, at the epicentre of the quake, the body of a young child was pulled out in front of relatives wailing in grief late Tuesday night.
Hundreds of survivors gathered in dozens of blue tents Wednesday, with some quietly sobbing as staff distributed wheat buns, an AFP photographer saw.
Search efforts in Longtoushan were being concentrated in a 600-metre swathe of hillside in the township’s central urban area.
Residents in the area told AFP that school dormitories had collapsed in the quake, echoing a 2008 disaster in Sichuan which killed more than 80,000 people, thousands of them children who died as their cheaply built schools crumbled.