Rescuers work to reach China quake victims

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BEIJING -- China's Premier Li Keqiang oversaw relief work in the southwestern province of Sichuan, and robots and drones were brought in to help rescuers struggling Sunday to reach villages devastated by Saturday's earthquake.

The death toll from the temblor, the strongest to hit the country in three years, rose to 184 with 11,826 injured, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. It said 1.5 million people have been affected by the quake whose epicenter was Lushan county, about 1,000 miles southwest of Beijing.

The quake, measured at magnitude 6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey, hit on the same fault line as a 7.9 earthquake that devastated nearby Wenchuan in May 2008.

That was the country's deadliest seismic event in more than three decades, leaving more than 87,000 people dead or missing, including as many as 5,335 children, according to government figures.

Mr. Li's rush to the region a month into his first term as premier echoes that of his predecessor Wen Jiabao, who flew to Wenchuan to reassure people that the Communist Party was doing everything possible to help. Thousands of military and armed police, firefighters, medical personnel, civilian relief workers and emergency response teams are in the region.

"The current priority is to save lives," Mr. Li was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. "We should grasp the golden period for saving lives and waste not a moment," he said while chairing a meeting in a tent in Lushan.

State television showed footage of Mr. Li meeting with local government officials and rescue teams Saturday evening, visiting hospitals, talking to the injured and climbing over the rubble of collapsed buildings. He returned to Beijing Sunday afternoon after also going to the provincial capital Chengdu, where eight people died.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sunday the country has the resources to cope with the disaster and doesn't need international help for now, indicating the calamity isn't as severe as the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

Saturday's temblor was the strongest since April 2010, when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit western Qinghai province on the Tibetan Plateau, killing about 2,700 people and displacing more than 100,000. Lushan county, a mountainous rural area under the jurisdiction of Ya'an city, is about 80 miles from Chengdu.

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