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More than 1,000 aftershocks have rattled southwest China's Lijiang region since a killer weekend earthquake, hampering relief work as the number of shattered homes soared to 330,000, officials said on Tuesday.

Braving a rare cold snap, many of the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by Saturday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake huddled in terror outdoors rather than enter damaged houses as the earth continued to shake, they said.The death toll has climbed to 246 with 15,000 injured, 3,837 of them seriously, said rescue coordinators reached by telephone on Tuesday in the Yunnan provincial capital, Kunming.

"The earth is still shaking and we are really scared," a newspaper reporter in Lijiang said by telephone. He said he had entered the building to fetch something he needed outside when he heard the telephone. "We prefer to work outside."

More than 3,000 troops and armed police were sent from neighbouring Sichuan province to help 2,000 soldiers scouring the rubble of mud-brick homes for any more dead, officials said.

The tally of collapsed homes had surpassed 330,000. Entire villages were obliterated. Warm clothing, shelter and medicine were in desperately short supply, officials said.

"There aren't enough tents and some people just sleep on pieces of wood," the reporter said. "It is really cold, especially at four or five o'clock in the morning."

Relief supplies from China and overseas had begun pouring into the mountainous region of Yunnan province, accessible from Kunming only by small aircraft or over rutted, twisting roads.

Beijing pledged $2.4 million in new state emergency aid as well as 5,000 tons of fuel, 100,000 padded garments and hundreds of tents, the Xinhua news agency said.

Some $9.6 million in aid was delivered on Monday, including cash and material donations from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan as well as Chinese agencies, firms and individuals.

Top priority was airlifting clothing, quilts, medicine and tents to Lijiang, a region 1,300 miles southwest of Beijing and known for its scenic beauty, with ethnic Naxi villages nestled below snowcapped Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.

More assistance was needed despite a good initial response to Sunday's Red Cross of China appeal, officials said.

"We are now asking for donations of clothing and quilts," a Yunnan provincial official said from Kunming.