Pakistani Rescuers Search for Survivors From Deadly Quake

Rescuers led by Pakistan’s military continued to search for survivors trapped under rubble from a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 300 people and created a new island in the Arabian Sea.

The death toll from the Sept. 24 temblor rose to 355, with 619 people injured, according to an e-mailed statement from the National Disaster Management Authority, a government agency. Suspected militants fired two rockets at a helicopter carrying the agency’s chief and another senior army officer during an aerial survey of affected areas, Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo, deputy speaker of the Balochistan Assembly, said by phone. The rockets missed the target.

A total of 300,000 people lost their homes after the quake affected an area of 40,000 square kilometers (15,444 square miles), Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman for the Balochistan government said by phone. That’s an area roughly the size of Switzerland. “Medical relief is reaching the areas but we still have a lot to do,” he said.

The quake struck 41 miles 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 emerged off the Gwadar coast after the temblor, Moazzam Jah Ansari, the district police chief, said by phone yesterday.

Tents, Supplies

As of yesterday, 700 tents arrived in Awaran along with 513 cartons of food supplies, Naseer Ahmed Mirwani, assistant commissioner for the district, said by phone.

“We need immediate medical supplies for 10,000 people and food for at least 100,000,” he said. “There’s not even a glass here to provide water.”

Sixty army vehicles carrying 600 troops, including doctors and paramedics, left Karachi yesterday with equipment to set up field hospitals, food, medicine 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.

Nationalist Insurgency

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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