Heavy rain forecast for a mountainous earthquake-hit area in Southwest China could trigger other disasters and hamper rescue efforts, an expert warned.
"The rain may cause landslides and mudslides in an area already made vulnerable by two earthquakes and continual aftershocks," said Zhang Jianguo, director of Yunnan Earthquake Administration's Institute for Disaster Prevention.
"This could pose a danger to the survivors and add obstacles to rescuers."
According to Yunnan's Meteorological Bureau, heavy rain will hit Yiliang county, the area hit hardest by Friday's earthquakes, on Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures dropping by more than 10 C.
The bureau said on its website that it sent a senior weather forecaster and three other experts to Yiliang on Monday to monitor the weather and provide other assistance.
Li Lianju, deputy director of the Yunnan Land and Resources Department, said the bureau has sent 30 experts to villages that are at risk of geological disasters to monitor and issue alarms.
The two earthquakes, with magnitudes of 5.7 and 5.6, caused 81 deaths and injured more than 800 people, affecting a total of 744,000 people in the province.
The central government has set aside 1.05 billion yuan ($160 million) for disaster relief, and more than 7,000 rescuers, including soldiers, police officers, doctors and officials, are working round-the-clock on relief efforts.
About 192,000 people affected by the earthquake have been resettled, according to the civil affairs department of Yunnan.
Several factors are behind the heavy earthquake casualties, Zhang said.
"The area features a complex landscape and high population density," he said. "The earthquakes happened within an hour of each other, and both hit the same place, causing more damage."
Continual aftershocks have also aggravated the situation.
"By 4 pm on Monday, we had detected 354 aftershocks," he said. "The area between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces is prone to earthquakes."
Even very mild aftershocks can damage the area, which is intersected by steep mountains, Zhang said.
Rocks and sand continued to fall from the mountains and roll onto the roads leading to Luozehe township, the hardest-hit area, on Monday, three days after the first quake struck.
"To make matters worse, it is very hard to find places safe enough to resettle people in this mountainous area," Zhang said. "Most people are now settled in tents near the foot of mountains, which would be vulnerable in a landslide.
"I suggest the affected people try to contact relatives in urban areas and stay there for a while. It is safer there."
Relief supplies, including more than 21,000 tents and 30,000 cotton quilts, have been delivered to the quake-hit area by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the civil affairs department of Yunnan, the ministry said.
By Monday, Yunnan had received more than 108.81 million yuan in public donations, according to the provincial authority.
"I have been relying on instant noodles as my only food since Friday," said Yuan Guangmei, who escaped when an earthquake hit Xianji village. "Luckily, the rescuers said that as of (Monday), we can have packed meals. There was rice, pork and beans in my lunchbox, which is much better than instant noodles."
Yuan said he feels safe now, but he is still worried about where he will live in the future.
"My house is destroyed. I hope the government can help me build a new one," he said.
Yang Yiliang, another villager from Luozehe, said he grabbed only a few belongings and a quilt when he escaped from his house, and many of his possessions, including several pigs he kept, are lost. Now he is in a resettlement area, but he said he is satisfied with the conditions there.
"I heard there may be rain (on Tuesday), and the temperature will drop," he said. "But I am not worried. The government has taken care of us well after the disaster struck."