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Pakistan earthquake kills more than 230, creates new island
World

Pakistan earthquake kills more than 230, creates new island

3 min. 26.09.2013 From our online archive
Pakistani rescuers strived to reach victims Wednesday of a huge earthquake that killed more than 230 people and toppled thousands of mud-built homes when it hit the country's southwest with enough force to create a new island off the coast.

(AFP) Pakistani rescuers strived to reach victims Wednesday of a huge earthquake that killed more than 230 people and toppled thousands of mud-built homes when it hit the country's southwest with enough force to create a new island off the coast.

The 7.7-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday afternoon in Baluchistan province's Awaran district, a dirt-poor expanse of land that is roughly the size of Wales.

Officials said 238 deaths had been confirmed so far, 208 in Awaran district, and the toll is expected to rise as rescue teams reach more villages in the remote area, which has been shaken by more than a dozen aftershocks.

"A total of six districts, Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Chaghi and Khuzdar, and a population of over 300,000 have been affected by the earthquake," Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman for the Baluchistan government, told AFP.

The head of the provincial disaster management agency, Abdul Latif Kakar, told AFP 30 people had died in Kech district, a toll confirmed by a senior local official.

Buledi said teams were working to recover bodies, but the priority was to move the injured to hospitals as soon as possible -- a difficult task in a desolate area with minimal infrastructure.

"We are seriously lacking medical facilities and there is no space to treat injured people in the local hospitals," he said.

"We are trying to shift seriously injured people to Karachi through helicopters and others to the neighbouring districts."

Karachi's Aga Khan hospital said they were preparing to receive injured, but none had arrived by midday.

The army has sent 100 medical staff and 1,000 troops to the area to help with rescue efforts and has established a medical centre in one of the worst-affected villages, Tarteej.

The navy has sent a ship carrying relief supplies to Gwadar port, close to the Iranian border, and aircraft to ferry injured to Karachi and Ormara, a naval base in Baluchistan.

The scale of the territory involved is daunting. Awaran's population is scattered over an area of more than 21,000 square kilometres .

Baluchistan makes up around 45 percent of Pakistan's area but is the country's least populated and least developed province. On top of the difficult terrain, the area is rife with separatist and Islamist militants as well as bandits.

More than 60,000 people live within 50 kilometres of the epicentre, according to the UN disaster agency, mostly in easily collapsible mud homes.

Abdul Rasheed Baluch, a senior official in Awaran, said teams had worked through the night to try to retrieve bodies and survivors from the rubble.

"Around 90 percent of houses in the district have been destroyed. Almost all the mud houses have collapsed," he said.

Tremors were felt on Tuesday as far away as New Delhi and even Dubai in the Gulf, while people in the Indian city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran into the streets in panic.

Office workers in Pakistan's largest city Karachi rushed out of their buildings.

New island emerges

Tuesday's quake caused a new island to appear close to the coastline at Gwadar, officials said, prompting astonished locals to rush to the shore to take a look.

"It looked very very strange to me and also a bit scary because suddenly a huge thing has emerged from the water," Gwadar resident Muhammad Rustam told AFP.

The National Institute of Oceanography has sent a team to survey the island, which stands about 20 metres high.

Experts said a similar small island appeared at the same place in the sea after a major quake in 1945 but disappeared after some time.

Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

In April a 7.8-magnitude quake in southeast Iran, close to the border with Baluchistan, killed 41 people and affected more than 12,000 on the Pakistan side of the border.

A 7.6 magnitude quake in 2005 centred in Kashmir killed at least 73,000 people and left several million homeless in one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit Pakistan.

Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but least populous province, is believed to have substantial gas and oil reserves.

But it is a flashpoint for growing violence against minority Shiite Muslims and has suffered attacks blamed on Taliban militants.

It also suffers from an ongoing separatist insurgency which began in 2004 when Baluch rebels rose up to demand a greater share of profits from the province's mineral resources.