BEIJING: At least 589 people have died in an earthquake that devastated a Chinese village, officials said Wednesday, marking a sharp increase in the death toll.
"As of 10.30 on Wednesday, 589 people have died" after Sunday's magnitude 6.1 tremor in the southwestern province of Yunnan, China's ministry of civil affairs said on its website.
No explanation was given for the sudden increase from a toll of 410 given on Tuesday, though rescuers have been pulling corpses from the wreckage.
The ministry added that 2,401 people in the province were injured by the quake, and 230,000 people had been evacuated, while more than 80,000 homes had fully or partially collapsed.
China called for volunteers to stay away from the disaster zone Wednesday as traffic blocked supply routes and "substandard" relief goods flooded into the area.
Huge tailbacks have developed around the worst hit areas, mainly consisting of cars driven by members of the public bringing in supplies or offering help.
Rescue efforts have also been hampered by landslides blocking roads.
In Longtoushan, the quake's epicentre, workers halted traffic as they set off explosions on the mountainsides to dislodge huge boulders perched precariously over roads. (AFP)