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57 dead, 60,000 out of reach at quake epicenter
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"We are in urgent need of tents, food, medicine and satellite communications equipment through air drop. We also need medical workers to save the injured people here," he said.

Rescuers are yet to reach Wenchuan, 159 km northwest of the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu, because all roads leading to the county have been destroyed by landslides and telecommunication links have also been cut.

At about 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday, He Biao finally reached Wang Bin via a satellite phone, according to a statement posted on the website of the prefectural government.

"Wang Bin said between sobs that most of farmers' houses had collapsed in two townships, and most of the houses in the county seat are in danger," the statement said.

The Aba prefecture has pledged to restore the damaged roads and communication networks soon "by every possible means", according to a separate statement posted on its official website.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who is in the City of Dujiangyan, about 100 km from the epicenter, has asked relief military personnel waiting in the city to enter into the area as soon as possible even if they have to walk to Wenchuan.

"Road access to Wenchuan, which is key to our disaster relief work, must be made at all cost. Water and power supplies and telecommunication in quake-hit areas should be restored as soon as possible," the premier demanded.

In Sichuan, more than 8,500 people were feared dead.

The powerful tremor was also strongly felt in many other parts of the country, including Beijing, Shanghai and Tibet.

The quake was the worst to strike China since the Tangshan earthquake in north China's Hebei Province in 1976, which claimed 242,000 lives.

(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2008)

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