At least 12 dead after 6.8 magnitude quake hits shattered Pakistan region

At least 12 dead after 6.8 magnitude quake hits shattered Pakistan region

AWARAN - Agence France-Presse
At least 12 dead after 6.8 magnitude quake hits shattered Pakistan region

A survivor of an earthquake collects a satellite dish from the rubble of a mud house after it collapsed following the quake at Dhallbedi Peernder village in Awaran district, Baluchistan, Sept. 27. REUTERS photo

A powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit southwest Pakistan on Sep. 28, killing at least 12 people in a region already devastated by a tremor which left more than 300 people dead this week, local officials said.

"At least 12 people have died and seven others wounded," Abdul Latif Kakar, head of the provincial disaster management agency told AFP.

Officials fear the death toll in the quake in Awaran, the poorest district in the southwest province of Baluchistan, could rise.

The new quake struck the remote district at a depth of 14 kilometres at 12:34 p.m. according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Although USGS said it was an aftershock of the 7.7-magnitude quake on Sept. 24, an official at the National Seismic Centre of Pakistan classified it as a new earthquake. "It was not an aftershock, it was an independent earthquake," Zahid Rafi, director of the National Seismic Centre of Pakistan, told Geo TV.

Awaran, a district in the southwest province of Baluchistan, was shattered by the 7.7-magnitude quake on Sept. 24 which left 359 dead and more than 100,000 people homeless.

"This new earthquake destroyed all that remains of the first quake, two villages destroyed completely," said Abdul Malik, provincial chief minister of Baluchistan.

Officials said villagers were digging through newly created debris and that seven wounded people have been taken to a make-shift hospital in Mashkey area, Awaran.

Relief efforts there have been further thwarted by insurgent attacks on rescue convoys, with local officials admitting that teams have been unable to reach thousands of survivors in the worst-hit areas.

An AFP reporter in Awaran said Sept. 28 that hundreds of patients being treated in the aftermath of the previous quake fled a hospital in panic as the new tremor hit. Pakistan's chief meteorologist Arif Mehmood told Express News that the magnitude of the quake measured 7.2.

Deputy Commissioner of Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Baloch told Geo TV that the quake destroyed hundreds of mud houses in the Mashkey area, adding that "a lot of people have been trapped under the rubble".

"The telephone system has been damaged and we are not able to talk to someone and find out the exact information about the losses... But we have reports of severe losses in that area," Baloch said. Even before the latest quake struck, local officials said some 30,000 survivors were still waiting for aid.

As well as being remote, the area is a stronghold of Baluch separatist rebels waging a decade-long insurgency against the Pakistani state.

'Humanitarian disaster'

The situation has forced officials to abandon efforts to reach survivors directly, saying instead they will work through village committees and private NGOs.

Abdul Malik, provincial chief minister of Baluchistan, told AFP that food and other rescue items would be distributed through local villagers.

He appealed to the local separatist groups to allow rescue officials to reach the survivors.

"It is a humanitarian tragedy and I appeal them to allow rescue workers to help the survivors," Malik told AFP late Sept. 27.

Manan Baloch, a leader of the Baluchistan National Movement, allied to the Baluchistan Liberation Front, told AFP that his group will only allow private NGOs and local officials to help survivors.

"We will not allow army or FC [paramilitary Frontier Corps] here, only NGOs or local officials are allowed to come here," he said.

A Pakistan army officer in Awaran told AFP the military only wanted to help locals.

"They are not ready to accept us," he said on condition of anonymity.

An AFP reporter in Awaran on Sept. 28 said aid workers along with trucks loaded with food, clothes and medicine were seen moving towards Mashkey.

On Sept. 26, a helicopter carrying the head of the NDMA came under rocket fire by insurgents while flying in Awaran district. No-one was hurt and no damage was done.

On Sept. 27, insurgents also opened fire on another helicopter and, in two separate incidents, fired on rescue convoys, officials said, adding that no one was hurt in the attacks.