Three mountainous towns in quake-hit southwest China were still out of reach due to the cutoff of traffic and communication, a local official said.
Jiang Guohua, Mianzhu City's Communist Party chief, said about 20,000 residents were trapped in the three towns - Qingping, Jinhua and Tianchi. The number of casualties there remained unclear.
There were some mines in the three towns. It was unclear whether 400 people were trapped in a Jinhua phosphorus mine, according to Jiang.
A villager who walked out of Qingping said the town had fall short of medicine and half of its 2,000 population were injured. Food and drinking water were also badly needed.
The Mianzhu disaster relief headquarters had earlier dispatched four teams to the towns but they had to return due to bad weather and continuous aftershocks.
A team of 500 People's Liberation Army soldiers carrying medicine and food began to walk to the towns on Wednesday afternoon.
A 7.8 magnitude quake rocked Wenchuan County of Sichuan on Monday afternoon. Mianzhu is close to Wenchuan.
The death toll from the quake in Sichuan has reached 14,463.
(Xinhua News Agency May 5, 2008)