Quetta: A strong earthquake in southwestern Pakistan killed at least 135 people, injured scores more and destroyed hundreds of mud houses on Wednesday, officials said.
The death toll was expected to rise as reports arrived from remote areas of the affected province of Baluchistan, an impoverished area bordering Afghanistan where the quake struck before dawn with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4.
The worst-hit area appeared to be Ziarat, where hundreds of mostly mud and timber houses had been destroyed in five villages, Mayor Dilawar Kakar said. Some homes were buried in a landslide triggered by the quake, he said.
“There is great destruction. Not a single house is intact. This time the figure we have got is 135 (dead). It may be more,” Kakar told Express News television.
He said hundreds of people had been injured and some 15,000 made homeless.
“I would like to appeal to the whole world for help. We need food, we need medicine. People need warm clothes, blankets because it is cold here,” Kakar said.
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, with little more than the clothes in which they had been sleeping.
In the nearby town of Kawas, dozens of dead and injured were brought to a hospital in Kawas in Ziarat district. A doctor there, Mohammed Irfan, said the hospital was unable to cope.
With roads blocked by landslides, officials said the army was ferrying troops and medical teams on four helicopters to villages in the quake zone and airlifting a field hospital as well as thousands of tents and blankets to the area.
The quake struck two hours before dawn and had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, the US Geological Survey reported. It was a shallow 15 kilometers below the surface.
It was centered about 640 kilometers 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.
Officials said the area hit on Wednesday was much less densely populated.
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.