Pakistani earthquake survivors receive tents at a distribution centre in the devastated district of Awaran yesterday.
QUETTA: At least 15 people were killed yesterday when an aftershock hit a Pakistani province where hundreds were killed in a major earthquake earlier this week.
Yesterday’s 6.8 magnitude aftershock destroyed most of the town of Nokjo in the western province of Baluchistan, police said. The town is home to at least 15,000 people.
At least 515 people were killed in Tuesday’s earthquake in the same province.
The death toll from yesterday’s aftershock may rise, said Khan Wasey, the spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps.
Aid deliveries have been complicated by the fact that the remote region is home to separatist insurgents who fear the army, which is overseeing aid operations, may take advantage of the crisis to move more forces into the area.
Yesterday, four soldiers were killed when insurgents attacked an aid convoy being escorted by government forces, an army spokesman said. The insurgents have twice fired on helicopters carrying aid workers or supplies.
The new quake struck the remote district of Awaran at a depth of 14 kilometres at 12.34pm according to the US Geological Survey.
A reporter in Awaran said yesterday 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 yesterday’s quake was 7.2.
The Deputy Commissioner of Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Baloch, told Geo TV that the quake destroyed hundreds of mud houses in the Mashkey area, saying 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.
Rescue efforts in Mashkey, where the epicentre of the first quake was located, had already been complicated by insurgent groups in the area who have launched attacks on relief convoys, with local officials saying some 30,000 survivors are still waiting for aid.
The area is a stronghold of Baluch separatist rebels waging a decade-long insurgency against the Pakistani state.
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, said 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 said late on Friday.
Manan Baloch, a leader of the Baluchistan National Movement, said that his group will allow only 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 said the military only wanted to help locals. “They are not ready to accept us,” he said.