Oct 30, 2008

Balochistan: UPDATE – Quake Kills Over 170

Sample ImageThe death toll of yesterday’s earthquake continues to rise as Pakistan’s military scrambles to find survivors. 

Below is an article published by NDTV.com: 

Over 170 people were killed and hundreds injured when a strong earthquake shook Pakistan's impoverished southwestern Balochistan early on Wednesday [29 October 2008], destroying hundreds of mud houses that left 15,000 homeless.  

At least eight villages in Ziarat and Pishin areas of Balochistan province were almost razed to rubble by the quake, according to first rescue workers who reached there.  

Two tremors hit parts of Balochistan, the country's most backward province, before dawn when people were asleep. The devastation was caused by the second quake which had a magnitude of 6.5.  

TV channels beamed footage of mud brick houses that were devastated and of people sleeping on the roads in Quetta and other towns and cities despite the freezing cold. The second quake, which had its epicentre 60 km northeast of Balochistan's capital Quetta, struck at 5.10 am.  

The first quake, which hit at 4.33 am, had a magnitude of 5. People rushed out of their homes in panic. In Quetta, local residents fired shots in the area and mosques used their public address systems to wake people who were sleeping.  

Ziarat and Pishin districts, located close to the epicentre, were hit hardest by the quake and up to 1,500 houses were damaged or destroyed.  

Eight villages in Ziarat district were completely destroyed. Local officials put the death toll at about 170 and said they feared the toll could rise as many people were believed to be buried under the rubble of mud brick houses that had collapsed.  

The remoteness of Ziarat and cold weather hampered relief efforts and rescue workers reached some of the affected areas about five to six hours after the quake.  

Provincial Revenue Minister Zamarruk Khan said more than 150 people were killed while Ziarat's District Coordination Officer, Sohail-ur-Rehman, said 80 deaths were reported from a three villages in the area.  

Balochistan's Forest Minister Maulvi Abdul Samad Akhundzada told a news conference in Islamabad had 15,000 people had been displaced by the earthquake.  

The government mobilised the army and paramilitary Frontier Corps for rescue and relief operations. About 400 paramilitary troopers were sent to Ziarat and Pishin.  

The military's C-130 transport aircraft airlifted supplies and medicines from Karachi and Rawalpindi to Balochistan.  

Army helicopters were pressed into service to ferry the injured to Quetta. Teams of the Army Medical Corps and Engineering Corps also joined the relief operations. The temblor also disrupted power supply in Quetta and several parts of Balochistan.  

National Disaster Management Authority Chairman Lt Gen Farooq Ahmed Khan said army field hospitals, tents, blankets and jackets had been sent to the affected areas. He said Pakistani agencies were equipped to deal with the quake and there were no plans to seek foreign aid.  

The Director General of the meteorological office, Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, said the quake was "very destructive" as its epicentre was just 10 km below the surface. Twelve aftershocks, many of them measuring over 4 on the Richter scale, were recorded during the day.  

The possibility of aftershocks would remain high for a week and there was also a possibility of more earthquakes occurring in the region for a month, Chaudhry said. Officials in Ziarat said there was a need for tents and warm clothing due to the severe cold in the area.  

The quake was also felt in Loralai, Qilla Abdullah, Sibbi, Bolan, Mastung and Zhob, they said. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, currently on an official visit to Turkey, expressed grief at the loss of lives.  

Gilani directed the Cabinet Division and National Disaster Management Authority to carry out relief work expeditiously and monitor relief activities.  Gilani also asked workers of his Pakistan People's Party in Balochistan and adjoining areas to take part in relief activities and help the local authorities. Similar instructions were issued to workers of the opposition PML-N by party chief Nawaz Sharif.  

Balochistan has witnessed other major earthquakes in the past. Quetta was devastated and about 30,000 people killed by a major earthquake in 1935.  

In October 2005, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake devastated northern Pakistan and Kashmir, killing around 80,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.