Pakistan quake kills hundreds

Pakistan quake kills hundreds

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani survivors gather around the debris of their destroyed houses in the earthquake-devastated district of Awaran on September 25, 2013. Desperate villagers in southwest Pakistan clawed through the wreckage of their ruined homes , a day after a huge earthquake struck, killing more than 270 people and creating a new island off the coast. AFP PHOTO/Banaras KHAN (Photo credit should read BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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by Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 11:58 AM

QUETTA, PAKISTAN -- Rescuers struggled Wednesday to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in a massive earthquake in southwestern Pakistan the day before as the death toll rose overnight to 210.

The earth moved with enough force to create a small island visible off the southern coast after the massive tremor, said Pakistani officials.

The magnitude 7.7 quake struck in the remote district of Awaran in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon. Such a quake is considered major, capable of widespread and heavy damage.

The quake was felt as far away as New Delhi, the Indian capital, about 740 miles away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there.

A provincial official in Baluchistan, Additional Home Secretary Zahid bin Maqsood, put the death toll at 210 and said 375 people had been injured, while a spokesman for the provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, put the death toll at 238 -- conflicting figures likely due to the difficulty in contacting local officials and people in the remote region.

“We need more tents, more medicine and more food,” said Bulaidi. He described a horrific scene of people who lost limbs in the quake and who will need to be sent to hospitals in major cities of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and Karachi along the Arabian Sea.

The quake flattened wide swathes of Awaran, the district where it was centered. Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed.

Local Pakistani TV channels showed images of devastated villages in remote areas. Houses made mostly of mud and handmade bricks had collapsed, walls and roofs caved in and people’s possessions scattered on the ground.

An unidentified man who appeared to be injured in his leg was shown supported by two men helping him walk. He said he was drinking tea when he heard a loud bang: “It shook everything.”

In Pakistani cities such as Karachi and Quetta people ran into the streets in fear, praying for their lives when the quake hit.

The Pakistani military said it had rushed almost 1,000 troops to the area overnight and was sending helicopters as well. A convoy of 60 Pakistani army trucks left Karachi early Wednesday, carrying supplies for those affected by the quake.

Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region.

The United Nations said in a statement that it mourned the victims and was in close contact with the Pakistani government to provide help if needed.

Pakistani officials were investigating a small island that appeared off the coast of Pakistan after the quake, apparently the result of earth and mud pushed to the surface by the quake.

Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said people gathered on the beach to see the land mass, which was about 30 feet high and 109 yards long.

The head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan confirmed that the mass was created by the quake and said scientists were trying to determine how it happened. Zahid Rafi said such masses are sometimes created by the movement of gases locked in the earth under the sea, pushing mud and earth up to the surface in something akin to a mud volcano.

“When such a strong earthquake builds pressure, there is the likelihood of such islands emerging,” he said. “That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance.”

To get a better idea of what the island is made of and how permanent it is, scientists will have to visit and get samples of the material to see if it’s mostly soft mud or rocks and harder material. He said these types of islands can remain for a long time or eventually subside back into the ocean, depending on their makeup.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Medical facilities are few and far between and often poorly stocked with medicine or qualified personnel. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents spread out over 11,197 square miles.

Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates.

The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.

Baluchistan and neighboring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.

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