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Up To 200 Killed In Pakistani Earthquake

Residents on the streets of Quetta following the October 29 quake
A powerful earthquake in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan Province has killed up to 200 people, according to aid workers in the region.

The earthquake also injured hundreds and made thousands homeless. Rescuers have reportedly pulled 160 bodies so far from the rubble in remote villages.

The first jolt of the earthquake was felt around 4:30 a.m. and was followed by a second, more powerful 6.5-magnitude quake 40 minutes later.

"This affected most of Baluchistan. But most of the victims were killed and most of the damage happened in Ziarat district," 70 kilometers northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta, said Mukhtar Chalgari, the head of the Strengthening Participatory Organization, a Pakistani nongovernmental group in Baluchistan that is coordinating the relief effort.

"The information we have so far suggests that some 200 people have been killed and 1,000 homes have been completely destroyed," Chalgari added from Quetta. "Another 1,000 homes have been partially damaged."

The group has already sent rescue teams to the communities most affected by the earthquake.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey's website, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck 60 kilometers northeast of Quetta at 5:10 am (2310 GMT).

Reuters news agency has reported that rescuers have so far pulled 160 bodies from the rubble in the Ziarat district.

"Around 15,000 people have been affected, 1,500 houses have collapsed. More than 150 people have been killed and countless are injured," said Maulvi Abdul Samad Akhunzada, Baluchistan's minister for forests and wildlife.

"We require tents, food ,and medicine. Teams of doctors should also be dispatched immediately," he added.

Extensive Damage

Radio Free Afghanistan's correspondent in Quetta, Barakwal Miakhel, has reported that the quake destroyed numerous houses in the city and injured many people as they fled their homes in panic. Rural Baluchistan's mud-walled homes suffered particularly extensive damage.

Besides Quetta and Ziarat, the quake also hit the Loralai, Pishin, Qilla Abdullah, and Killa Saifullah districts in the north of the province, Miakhel added. The earthquake was also felt strongly in the Khuzdar and Qalat districts in southern Baluchistan.

It has caused extensive damage to the communication infrastructure; massive landslides have blocked mountain roads, hampering rescue efforts in the vast and sparsely populated province.

A local politician and former member of the provincial assembly based in Ziarat, Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, told RFE/RL that he has so far received reports of 36 people killed by the earthquake in the villages of Kawas, Werchoo, and Cherai, in Zairat district.

"The telephone lines in Ziarat [town] are not functioning but there are reports that people have died there as well. In most villages and localities of the district, houses have either collapsed or been badly damaged. In most affected villages, people are digging out their dead," Ziaratwal said.

"We have asked the DG [director-general] health [department] and the rest of the government agencies for medicines and help. We have talked to the civil hospital and mobilized the blood bank of our political party. Some severely injured people are being brought to Quetta [for treatment]."

Pakistan is prone to dramatic seismic turbulence. A major earthquake in northwestern Pakistan in October 2005 killed up to 80,000 people. In one of the deadliest earthquakes in South Asian history, some 30,000 people died in Baluchistan when the quake wiped out most of the city of Quetta.

Aid worker Chalgari said people in Baluchistan remain very anxious, as some reports suggest that further aftershocks could hit the area in the next 48 hours.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Barakwal Miakhel contributed to this report
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, the editor of RFE/RL's Gandhara website, is a journalist specializing in coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. ​