Pakistan Earthquake 2013, The death toll from a devastating earthquake in western Pakistan rose to 327 on Wednesday, as soldiers and rescue workers scrambled to reach victims in one of the country’s remotest areas.
Residents searched for survivors.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is in New York, ordered officials to expedite relief efforts for victims of the country’s deadliest earthquake since 2005, when about 70,000 people died in an earthquake that struck the northwestern mountains.
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 impoverished part of Baluchistan Province.
Violent tremors felled hundreds of mud-walled houses in six remote districts in southwestern Baluchistan, killing hundreds and injuring at least 446, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.
While official estimates put the death toll at 271, officials in the affected districts said that it had reached 327 and that it was expected to rise.
The greatest damage occurred in Awaran, Baluchistan’s poorest district, which is near the deep-sea port of Gwadar, which Pakistan built with Chinese help over the past decade in the hope of stimulating regional trade.
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 remoteness of the area was impeding relief efforts.
“It was a big quake, and the damage is extensive,” he said.
Pakistan has not yet requested international assistance, General Aleem said, and hopes that it can deal with the crisis on its own.
Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest but poorest province, troubled by many conflicts, including a nationalist insurgency that has lasted decades and a spate of suicide bombings this year by sectarian militant groups.
In addition, the province is prone to earthquakes and recently dealt with a crippling drought, and the provincial government is generally ill prepared to deal with natural calamities.
“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, was quoted as saying by local television networks.
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.”
He said experts were conducting a survey and collecting samples in the area.
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Declan Walsh from London.