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Pakistan earthquake death toll nears 350

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-26

A huge earthquake struck the south of Pakistan killing at least 348 people on Wednesday, toppling many mud-built homes. The quake struck with enough force to create a new island off the coast.

The death toll from a powerful earthquake in Pakistan rose to at least 348 on Wednesday after hundreds of mud-built homes collapsed in a remote area near the Iranian border, officials said.

The earthquake, which measured 7.8-magnitude according to the United States Geological Survey, struck Pakistan’s thinly populated province of Baluchistan on Tuesday and was felt across South Asia.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. In Awaran, the worst affected district of the region, local officials said some 90% of homes had been destroyed homes and communications had been cut.

“We have started to bury the dead,” Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, the deputy commissioner of Awaran, told Reuters by telephone from the affected area.

He said at least 373 people were injured.

Provincial government spokesman Jan Muhammad Buledi told AFP: "We are trying to shift seriously injured people to Karachi through helicopters and others to the neighbouring districts."

The army deployed helicopters and hundreds of soldiers to help deal with the rescue effort in the huge, earthquake-prone province of deserts and rugged mountains bordering Iran and Afghanistan.

Unstable area

Baluchistan is believed to have substantial gas and oil reserves, but it is a flashpoint for growing violence against minority Shiite Muslims and has suffered attacks blamed on Taliban militants.

It also suffers from an ongoing separatist insurgency which began in 2004 when Baloch rebels rose up to demand a greater share of profits from the province's mineral resources. As a result, the Baloch community says it suffers severe discrimination.

Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates. 

A Pakistani military official speaking on customary condition of anonymity said security officials were fired on while escorting doctors to Awaran but nobody was wounded.

The quake was felt as far as New Delhi, the Indian capital, some 1,200 kilometres (about 740 miles) away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there.

The quake also jolted Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the epicentre. People in the city’s tall office buildings rushed into the streets, and Pakistani television showed lights swaying as the earth shook.

The quake was so powerful that it caused a small island to emerge from the sea just off the coastline in the Arabian Sea.

Witnesses reported seeing a small island appear off the coast of the port of Gwadar after the quake, said the director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, Arif Mahmood.

Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said people gathered on the beach to see the land mass, which was about nine metres (30 feet) high and 100 metres (109 yards) long.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-25


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