Pakistan’s army is leading a rescue operation in the nation’s most underdeveloped area after a magnitude 7.7 earthquake yesterday killed 271 people and created a new island in the Arabian Sea.
“Casualties have been reported from a vast area so our first priority is saving lives and then we’ll aim to provide shelter and food to survivors,” Muhammad Saeed Aleem, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, told reporters in Quetta. As many as 50,000 homes have been damaged and 446 people were injured, he said.
The quake struck 41 miles (66 kilometers) north-northeast of Awaran in Balochistan province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, the U.S. Geological Survey said on its website. An island measuring 100 meters (328 feet) in length and about 35 feet in height emerged off the Gwadar coast after the quake, Moazzam Jah Ansari, the district police chief, said by phone today.
Sixty army vehicles carrying 600 troops, including doctors and paramedics, left Karachi today with equipment to set up field hospitals, food, life-saving drugs and tents, Major Waheed Akhtar Bukhari, a spokesman for the military, said by phone. They will join 500 personnel already working in the area.
“There are mostly mud houses in the locality, and most of the deaths have been due to roof collapse,” Syed Wajid Raza, the chief of staff at the nation’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority, said by phone from Islamabad yesterday.
Balochistan province is Pakistan’s largest in size and smallest in population. It covers almost 44 percent of the country’s land area, with a population of about 8 million people, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
The nation’s army and security agencies have pushed to curb a nationalist insurgency in the province since 2006, when tribal leader Akbar Bugti was killed in a military strike.
No major destruction was reported in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital, Geo TV reported, citing unidentified rescue officials. Television images showed people standing outside their homes and offices in the commercial capital of Karachi, about 580 kilometers away. Other affected cities included Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Thatta and Nawabshah, Geo TV reported.
Earthquakes hit Pakistan frequently. More than 300 people were killed when a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the Ziarat and Pishin districts of Balochistan in 2008. At least 86,000 people were killed and more than 69,000 injured when a magnitude 7.6 quake hit northern Pakistan in October 2005.
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