Quake in remote Pakistan border region kills 170

Wednesday, October 29th 2008, 11:15 am
By: News 9


Associated Press Writer

ZIARAT, Pakistan (AP) -- A strong earthquake struck before dawn Wednesday in impoverished southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 170 people and turning mud and timber homes into rubble.

An estimated 15,000 people were left homeless, and rescuers were digging for survivors in a remote valley in Baluchistan, the remote province bordering Afghanistan where the magnitude 6.4 quake struck.

Officials said they were distributing thousands of tents, blankets and food packages and sending in earth-moving equipment to dig mass graves. Many of those who survived were left with little more than the clothes they had slept in, and with winter approaching, temperatures were expected to drop to around freezing in coming nights.

Worst-hit was the former British hilltop resort of Ziarat and about eight surrounding villages, where hundreds of houses were destroyed, including some buried in landslides triggered by the quake.

"There is great destruction," said Ziarat Mayor Dilawar Kakar. "Not a single house is intact."

Aftershocks rattled the area throughout the day, including one estimated at magnitude 6.2 in the late afternoon. There were no reports of additional casualties or damage.

Kakar said the death toll from the quake was 170, with 375 injured. Around 15,000 people lost their homes, he said.

Kakar appealed to "the whole world" for help, but the head of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority said an international relief effort would not likely be necessary.

In the village of Sohi, a reporter for AP Television News saw the bodies of 17 people killed in one collapsed house and 12 from another. Distraught residents were digging a mass grave in which to bury them.

"We can't dig separate graves for each of them, as the number of deaths is high and still people are searching in the rubble" of many other homes, said Shamsullah Khan, a village elder.

Other survivors sat stunned in the open.

Hospitals in the nearby town of Kawas and the provincial capital Quetta, 50 miles away, were flooded with the dead and injured. One patient, Raz Mohammed, said he was awoken by the sound of his children crying before he felt a jolt.

"I rushed toward them but the roof of my own room collapsed and the main iron support hit me," he told an AP reporter in Quetta Civil Hospital. "That thing broke my back and I am in severe pain but thank God my children and relatives are safe."

Farooq Ahmad Khan, head of the disaster authority, said 2,000 houses were destroyed and that teams were scrambling to erect shelters for 2,500 to 3,000 people.

The main quake struck at 5:10 a.m. local time and had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It was a shallow 10 miles below the surface and was centered about 400 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad.

Pakistan is prone to violent seismic upheavals. Wednesday's quake was the deadliest since a magnitude-7.6 quake devastated Kashmir and northern Pakistan in October 2005, killing about 80,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

A temblor of magnitude 7.5 that hit Quetta in 1935 killed more than 30,000 people.

Baluchistan is home to a long-running separatist movement, but is not considered a major battleground in the fight against Taliban insurgents that plague other border regions.

Ziarat, a hilltop resort ringed with juniper forests, has long attracted summer visitors. British officials retreated there from Quetta when the area was part of British India. Pakistanis flock to the former residence of Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and the shrine of a revered saint.


Associated Press writer Mattiullah Achakzai in Quetta and APTN cameraman Abdul Rahman in Sohi contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)