Pakistan quake kills 170, more deaths feared

16:28, 29 October 2008
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Local police and officials said

A powerful earthquake struck southwest Pakistan before dawn on Wednesday, killing at least 170 people, destroying mud homes and sending survivors screaming into the streets in panic, AFP reported.

At least eight villages were badly hit by the 6.4-magnitude quake , local police and officials said, warning the death toll could rise as rescue workers reached villages in the remote mountainous region bordering Afghanistan.

Dilawar Kakar, the mayor of the historic hill town of Ziarat, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the city of Quetta, told AFP the death toll had risen to 170, while about 400 people in the area were injured.

Virtually all houses were hit either in the initial quake or by repeated aftershocks, one of which the US Geological Survey measured at a magnitude of 6.2. Schools and hospitals were also damaged, he added.

"The relief work continued until late evening and we have recovered almost all victims from the rubble. Debris have been removed and we believe there may not be more people trapped there," he said.

"We have buried around 130 people in the affected villages while other bodies have been sent to their native towns."

Earlier Khushal Khan, spokesman for the revenue minister of Baluchistan province, Zamarak Khan, said local people had told him about 6,000 people have been made homeless and in one case, 29 members of the same family died.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani both expressed their condolences to relatives of those killed and injured, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.

Neighbour and rival India quickly offered any help that might be required.

The first official government figures from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) put the death toll at 115 so far, with nearly 300 injured, its chairman, retired Lieutenant General Farooq Ahmed, told a news conference.

In Quetta, witnesses said people fled screaming from their homes when the quake hit shortly after 5:00 am (2300 GMT Tuesday). Television footage showed many outside in the streets, wrapped up against the early morning chill.

But most of the victims were from outlying villages, whose mud houses were destroyed by the tremors, which triggered landslides of rocks and boulders while people slept in their beds.

In the village of Wam, near Ziarat, survivors later began burying their dead in line with Islamic tradition. At least 75 bodies were removed from the rubble, a local charity, Edhi, said.

Mohammad Naeem, 28, told AFP: "My brother Abdus Salam, who was a truck driver, returned to the village last night from duty and went asleep in his room.

"However, the roof of the room collapsed in the quake killing Salam and his wife. We recovered bodies of both Salam and his wife and buried them in the afternoon."

Others desperately dug among the rubble of demolished houses in the hope of finding loved ones alive or their bodies, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Buildings collapsed in Ziarat and communications were cut while the main road to Quetta was also hit, with wide cracks in places and boulders from landslides, an AFP correspondent said.

Soldiers, helicopters, tents, blankets, food and medical help have been sent from Quetta to Ziarat and an aerial assessment of the damage has started, the Pakistani military said.

The NDMA`s Ahmed said the situation was under control and there was no need for external aid.

But Ziarat`s mayor said the 3,000 tents sent so far were not enough.

"We have asked the government to send at least 10,000 tents as the temperature in the mountainous town is sub-zero and people need shelter during the night," he added.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or structural damage in Afghanistan, police there said.

Ziarat is a historic hill resort famed for its juniper forests. It receives visitors from all over Pakistan in summer who come to see the holiday home of the country`s founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in northwest Pakistan and Kashmir killed 74,000 people and displaced 3.5 million in October 2005.

In 1935 a massive quake killed around 30,000 people in Quetta, which at the time was part of British-ruled India.


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