The death toll of the earthquake in China's Yunnan province has reached almost 600 as rescuers are struggling against flood.
The death toll in Yunnan province is nearing 600 as rescuers are struggling against flood.Reuters

The death toll from the earthquake that hit Yunnan province on Sunday is nearing 600 as rescue workers are struggling with landslides and floods caused by the heavy rain, which has ripped through the area.

The death toll has risen to 589, while more than 2,400 others have been injured, according to China's Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Landslides have blocked several roads leading to Longtoushan Township in Ludian County, the epicentre of the quake. Rescue efforts have been hampered after the roads were blocked, and there are growing concerns about barrier lakes formed when the debris blocked rivers, according to local media reports.

A road leading to a large barrier lake on Niulan River was saved after almost two days of repairs by the armed police squad, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The wire service reported, citing a technical specialist in charge of the barrier lake response, that water level in the barrier lake was increasing at a speed of 16cm per hour, with the volume of the barrier lakes reaching 49.6 million cubic meters as of Tuesday.

Reports also suggest that some 4,200 residents have been evacuated from an area because of the barrier lake on Niulan River.

China has sent thousands of troops to the area to assist survivors and search for people trapped in the debris. Tents and relief goods were also brought in by both road and helicopters.

Local reports claim that rescue teams trying to repair damaged roads were hampered by heavy rain, rockfalls and aftershocks.

The 6.1-magnitude quake struck a mountainous area and destroyed thousands of houses and triggered landslides on Sunday. The quake, described as the deadliest in recent memory in the area, also damaged reservoirs and water pipes, cutting off supplies for over 300,000 people. Local bottled water plants are reportedly providing some 50 tonnes of drinking water every day to the area.

"As traffic has improved, we delivered 20 tonnes of bottled water and we are repairing water pipes as quickly as we can," Shou Minghi, head of Ludian water bureau, told Xinhua.