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Rescuers aid China quake victims

Rescuers and relief teams struggled to rush supplies into the rural hills of China's Sichuan province after an earthquake left at least 180 people dead and more than 11,000 injured.

Frightened survivors spent a night in cars, tents and makeshift shelters.

The earthquake on Saturday morning triggered landslides that cut off roads and disrupted phone and power connections in mountainous Lushan county, on the same fault line where a devastating quake wreaked widespread damage five years ago.

Hardest hit were villages further up the valleys, where farmers grow rice, vegetables and corn on terraced plots.

Rescuers hiked into neighbouring Baoxing county after its roads were cut off, reaching it overnight.

In Longmen village, the authorities said nearly all the buildings had been destroyed. Along the main roads, ambulances, fire engines and military trucks piled high with supplies waited in long queues, some turning back to try other routes when roads were impassable.

Rescuers were forced to dynamite boulders that had fallen across roads, and heavy rain slowed rescue work.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived yesterday by helicopter in Ya'an to direct rescue efforts.

"The current priority is to save lives," he said, after visiting hospitals, tents and climbing on a pile of rubble to view the devastation.

The government's official Xinhua News Agency said at least 180 people had died, and more than 11,000 were injured. The quake - measured by the earthquake administration at magnitude-7.0 - struck shortly after 8am local time on Saturday, when many people were at home, sleeping or having breakfast.

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