Pakistan quake kills at least 80, toll seen higher

At least 80 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck south-west Pakistan on Wednesday, bringing down hundreds of mud-walled houses and the toll was expected to rise, a district official said.

The United States Geological Survey said a 6,4 magnitude quake hit 60km north-east of the city of Quetta before dawn. The Pakistan Meteorological Department put the magnitude at 6,5 and said the quake struck at 5.10am local time (11.10pm GMT).

“I’m telling you that 80 people are dead in this area where I am standing right now,” Sohail-ur-Rehman, a top district administration official in Baluchistan province told Dawn Television by telephone from Wam district.

Asked if he expected the toll to rise, he said: “Much higher”.

Officials in Ziarat district, 70km north-east of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, said many houses collapsed in the quake and some were destroyed in landslides trigged by the quake.

“Hundreds of mud houses have collapsed. We are using whatever resources we have to help the people and have asked for help from the provincial government,” said Ziarat district chief Dilawar Khan.

“There is a large number of injured people but we don’t have an exact figure,” he said.

Khan said people in the worst-hit areas had been rescued but teams had yet to reach some remote places in mountains above the Ziarat valley.

Ziarat district has a population of about 50 000.
Its scenic valley is a picnic spot.

Five people had been killed in neighbouring Pishin district, to the north of Quetta, district government officials said.

“We were fast asleep when the tremor struck. We grabbed the children and ran outside. The earth continued shaking for more than a minute,” said Habibullah, a resident of Pishin. He said no one had been hurt in his neighbourhood.

District government officials and hospital staff in the provincial capital, Quetta, said scores of people had been injured, most when mud walls collapsed or in the panic when people rushed from their homes.

The Meteorological Department said two tremors had struck before dawn, the second one bigger than the first.

Quetta resident Amjad Hussain said there had been panic in the city.

“There were two tremors, the second one was serious and people rushed out of their houses,” Hussain said.

Quetta was largely destroyed and about 30 000 people were killed in a severe earthquake in 1935.

The region’s worst earthquake was in October 2005 when about 75 000 people were killed, most of them in mountainous northern Pakistan, in a 7,6 magnitude quake.

Large parts of south Asia are seismically active because a plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province but its most thinly populated. It has the country’s biggest reserves of natural gas but there were no reports of damage to gas facilities. - Reuters