Hu flew from Beijing after cutting short an official trip to South America to deal with the disaster.

His visit comes after the bodies of hundreds of victims were disposed of in mass cremations.

On Saturday, Hu chaired a meeting of China's top leaders, urging all-out rescue and relief efforts in the aftermath of the quake, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"As long as we have hope, we will put 100 per cent into the rescue work," Miao Chonggang, an emergency official at the China Earthquake Administration, told a news conference.

More than 6,000 people have been pulled alive from the rubble of collapsed buildings, Miao said.

He added that the number of personnel aiding rescue and recovery operations on the Tibetan Plateau had risen to 15,000.

On the streets of Jiegu, a hard-hit town near the quake's epicentre, boxes of bottled water were dropped to help residents cope with water shortages as aid continued to pour in.

Supplies scarce

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Mass cremations held for China's quake dead

Infrastructure in Jiegu suffered major damage in the quake, with the water supply "basically paralysed", Xia Xueping, a spokesman for relief efforts, told a news conference in the town.

Geng Yang, the head of the civil affairs bureau in Qinghai province, told reporters that essential items such as food, drinking water, cold-weather tents, quilts and clothing remained in short supply in the isolated area.

A 20-member Red Cross team from Taiwan was expected to arrive in the quake zone on Sunday, Xinhua reported, to help with surgery and public health work.

State media also reported that the dead included 103 students and 12 teachers as schools collapsed, with dozens more buried or missing.

Officials meanwhile have warned of a growing disease threat due to sanitation risks including damage to water supplies that could leave them polluted, although no such outbreaks had yet been reported.

The Dalai Lama, who Beijing considers a separatist and was born in Qinghai province, has praised the official response to the disaster, "especially [premier] Wen Jiabao, who has not only personally offered comfort to the affected communities, but has also overseen the relief work".