Chinese PM says situation in quake-hit China 'worse' than estimated
Posted: 13 May 2008 0452 hrs

CHENGDU: Chinese premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday said the situation in southwest China was worse than initially thought following a deadly earthquake, CCTV reported.

"The situation is worse than we previously estimated and we need more people here to help," Wen said, speaking at the disaster relief headquarters in Dujiangyan, 100 kilometres from the quake's epicentre.

The quake, with a magnitude of 7.8, struck on Monday afternoon close to densely populated areas of Sichuan province in what Premier Wen previously called a "major disaster."

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed so far in Sichuan and surrounding provinces, Xinhua news agency reported.

"Judging from the current situation, we cannot just rely on medical teams inside Sichuan province, we need teams to come in from outside," Wen was quoted as saying on CCTV.

There was still little news out of Wenchuan county, the mountainous region at the epicentre, more than 13 hours after disaster struck, although Xinhua reported at least 30 dead there.

But an official in Wenchuan county managed to appeal for emergency aid via a satellite phone on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.

"We are in urgent need of tents, food, medicine and satellite communications equipment through air drop," Xinhua quoted Wang Bin, Communist Party secretary of the county, as saying.

"We also need medical workers to save the injured people here."

Relief forces were approaching the county on foot, the news agency said, as vehicles were not able to use the road littered with rocks and boulders.

"We are currently 70 kilometres from the epicentre after walking for more than four hours," armed police team leader for Aba prefecture Li Zaiyun told CCTV by satellite phone on Tuesday.

"The road is blocked with huge rocks and many residents' houses are buried. Some sections of the road are twisted," he said.

"We felt several aftershocks when running, and we need to watch out for rocks rolling down from above. When we see or hear them running down near us, we try to take shelter in houses nearby that are not buried."

Wen said the road had to be cleared as quickly as possible to allow more rescue workers through.

"We need to clear the road. Only with the road cleared can we send in rescue workers and bring out the injured people," he said.

"The injuries could be more serious than we expected so we cannot waste one minute." - AFP/de