Hungry survivors dug through rubble to find food and thousands slept under the open sky or in makeshift shelters for a second night as the death toll from Pakistan’s massive earthquake rose to at least 348 yesterday.
Rescuers battled to reach remote areas of the impoverished region in the wake of Tuesday’s magnitude 7.7 quake in the country’s southwestern Baluchistan Province.
The quake flattened wide swathes of the Awaran District where it was centered, leaving much of the population there homeless.
Baluchistan Province Government spokesman Jan Mohammad Bulaidi said that 348 people have been confirmed dead so far and 552 were injured.
In the village of Dalbadi, almost all of the 300 mud brick homes were destroyed. Noor Ahmad said he was working when the quake struck and rushed home to find his house leveled and his wife and son dead.
“I’m broken,” he said. “I have lost my family.”
Doctors in the village treated some of the injured, but due to a scarcity of medicine and staff, they were mostly seen comforting the survivors.
Awaran District is one of the most destitute in the country’s most impoverished province.
Many people use four-wheel drive vehicles and camels to traverse the rough terrain.
Houses made of mostly mud and handmade bricks in the quake-affected region stood little chance against the massive quake. Walls and roofs caved in, and people’s possessions were scattered on the ground.
Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest province, but also the least populated. Medical facilities are few and often poorly stocked with supplies and qualified personnel. Awaran District has about 300,000 residents spread out over 29,000km2.
Many of the injured were ferried to the port city of Karachi or Quetta, the provincial capital, for treatment.
One survivor interviewed in his Karachi hospital bed said was working in the fields of his farm when the quake struck.
“Almost all the homes have collapsed in my village,” Sabal Khan said, adding that his wife was badly injured.
The area’s local economy consists mostly of smuggling fuel from Iran or harvesting dates.
The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years.
The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.
It is also prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan in April last year.