Friday, 27 September 2013

Death toll rises to 356 in quake-hit Balochistan, rescue plagued by militant attacks

The death toll from a massive earthquake that jolted southwest Pakistan rose to 356 on Thursday, with officials saying that thousands have been left homeless and about 300,000 people had been affected in remote parts of Balochistan province.

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck Tuesday afternoon in the province, toppling thousands of mud-built homes as it spread havoc through Awaran and Kech districts and the southwestern parts of the country.

At least 356 people have been confirmed dead and 619 others wounded, according to Balochistan government spokesperson Mohammad Jan Buledi.

Buledi told that six more bodies of earthquake victims were retrieved from Awaran district of Balochistan on Thursday.

He added that communications systems in the sparsely populated province were badly affected as a result of the earthquake and that rescue workers were facing difficulties in reaching survivors in remote areas of the province.

"I fear there may be more bodies buried under the rubble," Buledi further said.

However, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said it would use its own available resources for the rescue and relief, despite offers for help by the United Nations agencies, international donors and some countries.

“We have enough resources to cope with the situation that has emerged after the earthquake in Awaran and Kech, although international donors and some friendly countries have also offered their cooperation,” NDMA Chairman Maj Gen Mohammad Saeed Aleem said.

Over the next several days, survivors and rescue workers will experience dry conditions with light winds. However, temperatures during the middle of the day will be near 100, possibly causing issues with dehydration and heat stress for both rescuers and those affected by the earthquake.

The death toll is expected to increase along with reports of damaged and destroyed buildings throughout the region as the rescue efforts continue. Authorities estimate that 21,000 houses have been destroyed.

Pakistan appeals to militants over earthquake

Officials in Pakistan have made an appeal to separatist militant groups in the south-western province affected by the deadly earthquake to halt attacks.

A spokesman for the Balochistan regional government said insurgent attacks were hampering rescue and relief efforts in some districts.

At least 348 people died and hundreds were injured when a 7.7-magnitude quake hit the region on Tuesday.

Rescue teams are still trying to reach affected areas.

The government said that official rescue teams have not been able to reach many affected areas because of poor road networks, says the BBC's Shahzeb Jillani, in Quetta.

Officials estimate that about 300,000 people in six districts have been affected by the earthquake. Survivors need more provisions like food and water and there is also a lack of doctors and medical supplies.

Pakistan's official paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps, has been leading rescue and relief operations.

It already had thousands of soldiers deployed in the area because it is fighting a long-running separatist insurgency by Baloch nationalist rebels.

On Thursday an army helicopter carrying the head of Pakistan's national disaster agency, Maj Gen Alam Saeed, escaped a rocket attack, reports say.

Later, members of the Frontier Corps also came under fire in Awaran, the district worst affected by the quake.

The force stands accused of enforced disappearances and rights abuses in the impoverished and lawless province.

Western aid workers and international charity groups have long been discouraged from working in Balochistan - Pakistan's largest but least populated province.

The quake occurred at a depth of 20km (13 miles) north-east of Awaran, the US Geological Survey said. Many houses were flattened, forcing thousands of people to spend nights in the open.

Awaran is considered a hotbed of the separatist movement and is also the home of a leading separatist militant, correspondents say.

Tuesday's quake was so powerful it was felt as far away as India's capital, Delhi, and Dubai.

Friday 27 September 2013


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