YILIANG, Yunnan, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Eighty people have been confirmed dead as of Saturday noon following multiple earthquakes that struck southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, local authorities said.
The death toll may climb further, as the quakes have seriously damaged telecommunications and traffic infrastructure, making it difficult to collect information, said a spokesman with the provincial civil affairs department.
Another 820 people were injured in the two quakes, which hit an area near Yiliang County in Yunnan and Weining County in Guizhou Province at 11:19 a.m. and 12:16 p.m. Friday, respectively.
More than 200,000 people in Yunnan have been relocated, with more than 6,600 houses destroyed and another 430,000 damaged. Direct economic losses are estimated to be 3.5 billion yuan (552 million U.S. dollars), according to the provincial civil affairs department.
In Yunnan's Luozehe township, one of the hardest-hit areas, 40-year-old Liu Jiahe was visibly shaken while recalling the quake.
"The ground was moving and the mountain was shaking. I was scared out of my wits by the noise," said Liu.
Local resident Zhang Zhenglian was preparing lunch for her family on Saturday in a tent on a school playground, where dozens of people have been relocated.
"Our houses all collapsed and all our furniture was destroyed," she said.
At the People's Hospital of Yiliang county, Luo Facui was receiving treatment for a head injury.
"I was cooking lunch when the ground started shaking. A rafter fell from the roof and knocked me out," she said.
Luo's husband said neighbors and rescuers saved his wife after their house collapsed. He was not at home when the quake occurred.
State and provincial civil affairs authorities have sent 21,000 tents, 31,000 quilts and 26,000 winter coats to Yunnan for disaster relief.
The county's education bureau said three primary school students are among those killed in the quakes.
Zhou Guangfu, deputy chief of the bureau, said the students were attending class at the Yunluo Primary School in Jiaokui township when the first quake occurred.
Zhou said there were 15 students in the school at the time of the first quake, eight of whom were buried. Teachers and villagers rescued five of them.
Classrooms in more than 300 high and primary schools were also damaged and classes there have been suspended, Zhou said.
Zhou said the bureau will inspect the county's schools before allowing classes to resume.
In neighboring Guizhou, two people had been reported injured as of 1 a.m. Saturday, with 28,000 people relocated.
More than 40 houses collapsed and more than 13,000 houses were damaged, with direct economic losses reached 190 million yuan, the province's civil affairs department said.
President Hu Jintao, who is in Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, has called for immediate efforts to help with disaster relief work.
Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at the quake zone early Saturday, stressing that efforts to save lives should come first to minimize casualties.
Wen spent a sleepless night directing rescue work in a temporary tent and visiting quake survivors in local villages and hospitals.
The quakes have cut off electricity and triggered landslides that have blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts.
More than 10,000 people have been mobilized to participate in rescue work, such as searching for trapped people and repairing infrastructure.
Transportation authorities are also beefing up quake relief efforts. The Civil Aviation Administration issued a notice Saturday ordering airline companies to ensure flights and dispatch chartered flights if necessary to transport relief materials and personnel to the quake zone. Trains carrying food, water and other relief supplies were also sent to the quake zone.
Local meteorological authorities said the region will experience rains in the coming three days, which may affect rescue efforts.