Pak quake toll 328
In this photo released by the Pakistani government yesterday, people walk on an island that appeared two kilometres off the coastline of Gwadar, after an earthquake the day before. The island is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 metres) high, up to 300 feet long and up to 120 feet wide. Gary Gibson, a seismologist with Australia's University of Melbourne, said the new island was likely to be a "mud volcano", created by methane gas forcing materials upwards during the violent shaking of the earthquake. The so-called island is not a fixed structure but a body of mud that will be broken down by wave activity and dispersed over time, the scientist said. Photo: AFP
The death toll from a powerful earthquake in southwest Pakistan rose to 328 yesterday after hundreds of mud houses collapsed on residents throughout the remote and thinly populated area, local officials said.
Desperate villagers in southwest Pakistan clawed through the wreckage of their ruined homes yesterday, a day after the huge 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck Baluchistan province's remote Awaran district.
At least 328 people have been confirmed dead and more than 450 injured, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the Baluchistan government.
In the village of Dalbedi, the earthquake -- Pakistan's deadliest since the devastating Kashmir quake of 2005, which killed 73,000 -- flattened some 250 houses, an AFP photographer said.
Bewildered villagers dug with their hands through the rubble of their mud houses in Dalbedi to retrieve what was left of their meagre possessions.
Their simple houses destroyed, they used rags, old clothes, sheets and branches to shelter their families from the sun.
Farmer Noor Ahmed, 45, said the strong tremors lasted for two minutes and turned buildings in the village into piles of mud.
"We have lost everything, even our food is now buried under mud and water from underground channels is now undrinkable because of excessive mud in it due to the earthquake," he told AFP.
Jan Muhammad Buledi, spokesman for the Baluchistan government, gave the death toll and told AFP it was likely to rise as rescue teams reach more villages in the area, which has been rattled by more than a dozen aftershocks.
More than 300,000 people had been affected by the quake across six districts -- Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Chaghi and Khuzdar -- he said.
"People are still trapped under the rubble but it is a huge disaster and it will take time to reach and rescue all the people," he said.
PDMA official Ahmad Nawaz confirmed the death toll and said the injured numbered 498.
The authorities have prioritised finding the injured and getting them to hospital, but the task is hampered by the area's remoteness and the limited infrastructure.
They are also trying to provide tents to shelter the thousands left homeless.
The army has rushed medical staff and troops to the devastated area to help with rescue efforts, along with seven tonnes of food and a tonne of medicine.
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 about 45 percent of Pakistan's area but is the country's least populated and least developed province. The area is also rife with separatist and Islamist militants as well as bandits.
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.