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Pakistani Quake Toll Climbs To 515 As Rebel Attacks Hamper Relief

Survivors of the September 24 earthquake use poles to build a makeshift shelter near the rubble of a mud house after it collapsed in the Awaran district of Balochistan Province.
The death toll from an earthquake in southwestern Pakistan has reached 515 as insurgent attacks continue to threaten rescue efforts.

Babar Yaqoob, a senior government official in the southwestern province of Balochistan, confirmed the death toll on September 27 as he toured the remote Awaran district, the epicenter of this week's 7.7-magnitude temblor.

Awaran and the surrounding region -- comprising the districts of Kech, Khuzdar, Kharan, Gwadar, Panjgur, and Chaghi -- is the stronghold of ethnic Baloch separatists who have waged a violent insurgency against Islamabad.

Shots were fired at two helicopters carrying aid on September 27. The incident follows an attack one day earlier on a helicopter carrying the general in charge of Pakistan's National Disaster Management Agency.

Three days after the earthquake, Awaran's residents are still complaining about the lack of aid and outside help in dealing with the disaster.

Allah Bakhsh Mirwani, an Awaran resident, says surviors are helping themselves.

"A woman and the head of the village were buried under the rubble," Mirwani said. "We were able to dig them out after about half an hour but they were dead."

Sajid Moghul, a field surgeon, described the health-care challenges after the quake.

"A lot of children have chest infections and viral infections," Moghul said. "Many of the injured have internal injuries. We are giving them medical aid."

In Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, senior disaster management official Hafiz Basit told RFE/RL Radio Mashaal that authorities were doing their best to reach affected regions.

On September 26, Balochistan provincial government spokesman Jan Mohammad Bulaidi appealed to the rebels to refrain from attacking aid workers and rescuers.

Balochistan's quake has left more than 100,000 people homeless and is said to have affected some 300,000 people.

Baluch rebels are fighting for independence from Pakistan. They accuse Islamabad of stealing Balochistan's vast mineral and hydrocarbon resources and engaging in widespread human rights abuses.

Based on reporting by dpa, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal