Employees leaving their office buildings in Karachi following the earthquake yesterday.
QUETTA: A huge earthquake hit southwest Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 46 people, toppling scores of homes and sending people around the region rushing into the streets in panic.
The 7.7-magnitude quake, which sparked warnings of heavy casualties from seismologists, was centred in Baluchistan province’s Awaran district but felt in New Delhi and Dubai.
Officials said the quake struck at 4.29pm and demolished dozens of houses in Awaran, 350km southwest of the Baluchistan provincial capital Quetta. Its epicentre was 20km below ground.
The area is sparsely populated and most buildings are mud-built. But the US Geological Survey issued a red alert, warning that heavy casualties were likely based on past data.
Asad Gilani, a senior official in Baluchistan, said 46 people had been confirmed killed and 100 injured.
“A large number of houses have collapsed and we fear the death toll may rise,” said Rafiq Lassi, police chief for Awaran district.
The provincial government declared an emergency in Awaran and the military mobilised medical teams, 200 soldiers and paramilitary troops to help with the immediate relief effort.
“There are not many doctors in the area but we are trying to provide maximum facilities in the affected areas. We fear many deaths,” Jan Muhammad Baledi, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said on the ARY news channel.
TV footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.
Abdul Qudoos Bizinjo, Deputy Speaker of Baluchistan’s parliament, told Dunya TV there were reports of “heavy losses” in Awaran. Damage to the mobile phone network was hampering communications in the area, he said. Awaran district has an estimated population of 300,000, scattered over more than 21,000 square kilometres.
A new island appeared after the quake close to the coastline of Gwadar, officials said. “The island, up to 100 feet high and 200 feet wide, surfaced after the earthquake hit parts of Baluchistan.”
They said a similar island had appeared at the same place in the sea about 60 years ago but disappeared after some time.
Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital and Dubai, while people in the Indian city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran into the streets in panic. Office workers in Pakistan’s largest city Karachi rushed out of their buildings. “My work table jerked a bit and again and I rushed outside,” said Noor Jabeen, 28.
“It was not so intense but it was terrible,” said Owais Khan, who works for a provincial government office.
“Whenever I feel jolts it reminds me of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir,” said Amjad Ali, 45, an IT official standing in the street. The 7.6-magnitude quake in 2005 centred in Kashmir killed 73,000 people and left several million homeless in one of the worst natural disasters to hit Pakistan.