A strong aftershock has jolted southwestern China, killing at least two people, destroying 70,000 homes and rattling millions still reeling from the massive earthquake two weeks ago.

The aftershock, the strongest to hit Sichuan province since the 12 May quake, came as the death toll from the initial tremor topped 62,500, and as more foreign aid poured into the disaster zone.

Relief workers raced to reach those in need as the already tough conditions for millions of survivors living in makeshift camps worsened, with rain falling throughout the day and forecasters predicting heavy downpours overnight.

The aftershock measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, making it the strongest since the 7.9 quake that destroyed large swathes of Sichuan two weeks ago.

Two people were killed and more than 480 injured, 41 of them seriously, in the aftershock, with the city of Guangyuan, north of the provincial capital Chengdu, particularly hard hit.

The aftershock compounded fears of further destruction stemming from the disaster, the worst earthquake in China in more than 30 years.

The government said the quake had left 69 dams in danger of bursting and created ‘dangerous situations’ at hundreds of others.

The death toll continues to rise, with the government putting the figure at 62,664, with another 23,775 listed as missing.

Aid arrives as quake zone braced for rain

Aid continues to pour into the region for the more than 5.4m homeless survivors and more than 11m people who China says are expected to be evacuated from quake-hit areas to temporary camps.

A Russian military transport plane touched down before dawn in Chengdu, one of 12 Russian flights expected as China works to help the millions affected.

With the hope of finding more survivors all but extinguished, the focus is now on clean-up and reconstruction operations, although state media reported today that an elderly man was freed unhurt from the collapsed remains of his home 11 days after the quake.

Grief turned to anger for about two dozen parents of children killed in the quake, who staged a rare protest today demanding a probe into whether shoddy school construction was to blame for the deaths of their children.

The parents, many of them clutching framed photos of their dead children, held the demonstration on a highway leading out of the quake-devastated town of Mianzhu.

A large number of schools collapsed, even though some neighbouring structures remained standing, adding to suspicions that corrupt practices had left children at risk.

State media has said 9,000 teachers or schoolchildren are among the dead and missing.

In addition to the Russian flights, a French medical team has arrived in Chengdu, the US Army has already flown in supplies and the German Red Cross has set up a field hospital.