A survivor walks on the debris of collapsed mud houses in Labach village in the Awaran district yesterday.
AWARAN: Tens of thousands of survivors of Pakistan’s earthquake waited for help in soaring temperatures yesterday, as the death toll rose to 350 and anger grew at the slow pace of government aid.
More than 100,000 people made homeless by Tuesday’s 7.7-magnitude quake spent a second night in the open or under makeshift shelters as response teams struggled to reach the remote region in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Abdul Latif Kakar, head of Baluchistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority, said the death toll stood at 350, more than 300 of them in Arawan district, with more than 500 injured. The sheer scale of the territory involved is daunting — the population of Awaran is scattered over more than 21,000 sq km — and infrastructure is limited, with few medical facilities or roads.
On top of the remote, rugged terrain, the area is also home to Baluch separatist rebels waging a decade-long insurgency.
A helicopter carrying the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, Major General Muhammad Saeed Aleem, came under rocket fire in Awaran, though no damage was done and no one was hurt. “Two rockets were fired but the target was missed,” a military official said. The toll is expected to rise further as rescue teams dig through the rubble of flattened mud-brick homes.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told parliament “huge activity” was under way to help the survivors but admitted teams were struggling to reach some areas, even 40 hours after the quake.
The army has sent troops, medical staff and helicopters to help with rescue efforts, along with seven tonnes of food and a tonne of medicine.
In Arawan town, around 200 angry survivors demonstrated outside government offices complaining they had not been given food or shelter.
“We have not received anything. We have not got any relief, there is no supply of food or medicine,” villager Abdul Latif, 25, said.
Temperatures in the arid region were reaching 42 degrees Celsius and a survivor said people were desperate for relief from the blistering heat.
“We need shelter, we are lying under the open sky and have no tents,” 54-year-old Chanda said. “We need food and water, but first of all we need shade from the scorching sunshine.”
Kakar said the quake had left more than 100,000 people homeless in Arawan, a dirt-poor expanse of land roughly the size of Wales. The government is preparing to send more than 14,000 tents, Nisar said, and is using a C-130 transport plane to reach difficult areas. “We have a major challenge in accessing and reaching far-flung areas to provide them logistic support.
“Presently some 1,000 troops are available on the ground while the army has despatched another unit to the affected areas.”
Search and rescue teams with search dogs and technical equipment have also been sent, he said.
The quake has affected more than 300,000 people in six districts of the province. AGENCIES