ISLAMABAD: The death toll from the destructing earthquake in Balochistan is feared to cross 1000 as soldiers and rescue workers are trying to reach victims in country’s far-flung areas.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in New York, ordered officials to assist relief efforts for victims of the country’s deadliest earthquake since 2005.
This week’s magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon and was felt across the country, even causing a small island to rise from the Arabian Sea. But its force was greatest in a particularly poverty-stricken parts of Balochistan Province.
Violent tremors forced hundreds of mud-walled houses to collapse in six remote districts in southwestern Balochistan, killing hundreds and injuring over 500, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.
While official estimates put the death toll at 328, officials in the affected districts said that it may increase to 1000.
The greatest damage occurred in Awaran, Balochistan’s poorest district, which is near the deep-sea port of Gwadar.
The army said it was airlifting troops by helicopter to Awaran to supplement at least 1,000 troops who had been sent by truck.
The head of the National Disaster Management Authority, Maj. Gen. Muhammad Saeed Aleem, said his priority was to provide shelter to the homeless and added that supplies of medicine, blankets and water were on the way.
But, he added, the areas being far-flung was impeding relief efforts.
“We are seriously lacking medical facilities, and there is no space to treat injured people in the local hospitals,” Jan Muhammad Buledi, a provincial spokesman said.
Baluchistan was also badly hit by devastating floods that swept Pakistan in 2010, inundating about one-fifth of the country and affecting about 20 million people. About 2,000 people died in that disaster.
The earthquake resulted in an unusual geographical occurrence in the Arabian Sea when the force of the tremors caused a small rocky island to rise from the seabed near the Port of Gwadar.
Ali Rashid Tabriz, the head of Pakistan’s National Institute of Oceanography, said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon that the surfacing of the island, which was visible from the coast, had been caused by an emission of methane gas on the seabed.
“Such islands have appeared in the past in 1955, in 1999 and most recently in 2010,” said Mr. Tabriz, who is based in the port city of Karachi. “But they sink back, and this new island will also not stay there for long.”
The experts reached the island, conducting a survey and collecting samples from the ‘earthquake mountain’.