Over 200 people were killed and 11,500 others injured in the devastating 7-magnitude earthquake in southwest China, which continued to be rocked by hundreds of aftershocks today, while relief teams made frantic efforts to save hundreds trapped under tonnes of rubble.
After suffering the shallow quake yesterday, the Lushan county battered by over 1,300 tremors. The severest aftershocks measured as high as 5.4 magnitude, jolting the area badly from the depth of 17 kms.
Death toll continue to mount throughout the day as relief teams spread to remote areas and sifted though the rubble to rescue people trapped under the debris.
State media say 207 people are dead or missing after the quake, and 11,500 are injured, 960 of them seriously.
The quake in Sichuan province, second in five years, sparked off a debate whether there should be high density human settlements in the areas as it is very prone to recurring quakes.
Sichuan is located on the foothills of Tibetan plateau and known to be prone to heavy earthquakes as it sits right over the place where the tectonic Euroasian and Indian plates meet, often colliding with huge force.
Over 90,000 people were killed in 2008 quake in the province which virtually ravaged the area.
Its neighbouring province, Qinghai witnessed yet another heavy quake in 2010, causing several deaths and massive destruction.
Politically yesterday's earthquake was also turned out to be a major test for China's new leadership headed by President Xi Jinping, which took over power a month ago.
Under pressure to prove its mettle, the new government mounted relief operations on a war footing mobilising thousands of soldiers and relief teams.
Following the footsteps of his predecessor, Wen Jiabao, new Premier Li Keqiang rushed to the affected areas about five hours after the quake struck and stayed over night in Ya'an city, the worst hit area and returned today afternoon.
He was seen personally coordinating relief operations, goading the rescuers to take advantage of the golden 72-hour period to save as many people as possible from the rubble.
China, meanwhile, thanked the international community for offering assistance, but politely declined any help, saying that it will be difficult for foreign rescue teams to travel to remote areas.
"The Chinese government and people are sincerely grateful to various means of assistances offered by some countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.
Stressing that the Chinese government is going all out to carry out rescue work, Qin said the country has guaranteed rescue and medical treatment capability and sufficient rescue materials.
"Considering the inconvenient traffic and telecommunications in quake zone, foreign rescue and medical teams and materials are not required now," Qin said, adding that China will make requests if needed.
The Red Cross Society of China has published the ways of contact for international fund assistance, Qin said.
Officials also ordered tightening of security at prisons in areas ravaged by the quake.
Minister of Justice Wu Aiying said that swift measures should be taken to ensure the safety and stability of prisons and other correctional facilities.
Judiciary departments in disaster areas should try and save injured police officers and other personnel, and ensure they have daily necessities and supplies, she said.
Accidents continue to mar the relief operations as a rescue excavator plunged off a 300-meter deep cliff today in quake-stricken Baoxing County of southwest China's Sichuan province, causing casualties.
Yesterday, a van carrying soldiers plunged into a river, killing a soldier and injuring several others.