At least 589 people have died in the earthquake that hit southern China on Sunday. The death toll rose sharply over the last day as rescuers reached more remote locations. A senior colonel in the People's Liberation Army working with the rescue effort told the Associated Press, "There are a lot of people that we may never be able to dig out. But there is still hope."

Sunday's earthquake had a magnitude of 6.1, the highest the Yunnan province has seen in 14 years. As Christopher Bodeen at the AP explains, "The quake struck an area of steep hills and narrow roads that are not well suited to all the traffic of the massive relief effort." Pang Chenmin, the head of China's disaster relief bureau, asked civilian volunteers to stay away from the rescue effort today.

"In order to ensure the best chances of rescuing survivors, we advise non-professional groups and volunteers against entering the quake zone by themselves so as not to cause traffic and communication difficulties," he said. The 72 hours after a disaster like this is considered the "golden period" for rescue, and that period is coming to a close.

[Image via AP]