AFP/ Harnai, Pakistan
At least 20 people were killed and more than 100 injured yesterday when an earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan, causing roofs and walls of mud brick homes to collapse on families as they slept.
A one-year-old boy was among the victims, killed when a beam crashed on top of him in the darkness, as the 5.9 magnitude quake jolted at least six cities and towns in Balochistan province. The worst-affected area was the remote mountainous district of Harnai, where landslides blocked some roads, hampering rescue efforts.
Authorities are also contending with phone and electricity outages after pylons were damaged.
“We are receiving information that 20 people have been killed due to the earthquake,” said Balochistan’s Home Minister Mir Zia ullah Langau, adding that 100 people were injured.
“It is safe to say that hundreds of mud houses were damaged.”
A woman and six children were among 20 dead, Suhail Anwar Hashmi, the top government official in Harnai district, said, putting the number of injured at around 200.
“The roof of my house collapsed, when I regained consciousness, I pulled out two of my sons, but the youngest one... had already died,” Rafiullah, a farmer from a village in Harnai district, said.
Army helicopters were helping to evacuate the injured from remote areas to Quetta, the nearest major city.
Naseer Nasar, the head of Balochistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority, warned the death toll could rise.
A second jolt rocked the area around two hours after the first quake.
“Our rescue teams have cleared 50% of the roads leading to Harnai while remaining roads will be cleared in the next two to three hours,” Balochistan’s home minister Langau added, highlighting the strain rescue teams were under.
The quake caused electricity to fail in the area, with health staff working until dawn without lights in the district’s poorly equipped government hospital.
Before daybreak, “we were operating without electricity with the help of torches and mobile flashlights,” Zahoor Tarin, a senior official at Harnai hospital, said. “Most of the injured came with fractured limbs. Dozens of people were sent back after first aid,” he said.
The most serious cases were being sent by ambulance to Quetta. Hashmi, the top government official in Harnai district, said a rescue team had been dispatched to investigate reports that 15 coal miners were trapped in a mine on the outskirts of the town.
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