RESCUERS struggled yesterday to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in a major earthquake in south-west Pakistan as the death toll from the massive tremor the day before rose to at least 271.
The earth moved with enough force to create a small island visible off the southern coast after the magnitude 7.7 quake struck in the remote district of Awaran in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Tuesday. At least 446 people were also injured in the quake, said the head of the National Disaster Management Authority, Major General Muhammad Saeed Aleem.
The quake flattened vast swathes of Awaran. Most of the victims were killed when their houses fell in on them.
In the severely damaged village of Dalbadi, Noor Ahmad said he was working when the quake struck but swiftly rushed home, only to find his house levelled to the ground and his wife and son dead.
He said he pulled their bodies from the rubble and helped other relatives who were injured.
“I’m broken. I have lost my family,” he said.
Dalbadi was completely flattened. No-one knew exactly how many people the quake had killed.
Men, women and children were sitting in makeshift shelters. Doctors were treating people, but due to a scarcity of medicine and staff, they were mostly seen comforting the residents.
The remoteness of the area and the lack of infrastructure have hampered the relief efforts.
“We are finding it very difficult to reach the affected remote areas,” said a spokesman for the provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi. “We need more tents, more medicine and more food.”
He described a horrific scene of people who lost limbs in the quake and who will need to be sent to hospitals in the major cities of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, and Karachi along the Arabian Sea. Images from the village of Kaich showed the devastation.
Houses made mostly of mud and handmade bricks had collapsed, walls and roofs caved in and people’s possessions were scattered on the ground. A few goats roamed through the wreckage as men dug through the rubble.
In images shown on Pakistani television, an unidentified man who appeared to have an injury to 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.”
The Pakistani military said it had dispatched almost 1,000 troops to the area overnight and was sending helicopters too. A convoy of 60 Pakistani army trucks left Karachi early yesterday, carrying supplies for those affected by the quake.
Pakistani forces have evacuated 174 people from various villages around Awaran to the district hospital, the military said in a statement.
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.
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.
The head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan confirmed 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 subsea, pushing silt 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.”