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China welcomes foreign aid for quake victims

Peking said yesterday it would welcome foreign aid for thousands of victims of a major earthquake in southwestern China as scientists predicted that more temblors will rock the area. Chinese officials told the United Nations office in Peking that by tomorrow they will detail the supplies needed to relieve tens of thousands of survivors from China's worst earthquake in 12 years, according to a UN official.

Peking has said that 689 people have died, and more than 600 have been injured since Sunday's quake in the remote province of Yunnan. Radio Peking, however, reported Wednesday that 796 people have died. And foreign aid officials say Chinese officials privately have quoted fatality figures exceeding 900.

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The quake, measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, destroyed buildings and cut communications and roads in an area centering on remote and mountainous Lancang County near the border with Burma.

``The obstacles to the rescue are much worse than experts first believed,'' Radio Peking reported. The earthquake destroyed numerous roads, and rescuers must reach many damaged villages on foot, it said in a dispatch from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province.

``More earthquakes of about 6 on the Richter scale are likely'' in the area, Li Xuanhu of the State Seismological Bureau told the New China News Agency. A tremor of such magnitude can cause severe damage. As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, 184 temblors had jarred the area since the initial shock, with 65 of them exceeding 4 on the Richter scale, Mr. Li said.

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