Pakistani Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 215

October 30, 2008 at 2:50 am Leave a comment

pakistan-death-toll.jpgSoldiers handed out blankets, tents, jackets and sleeping bags
to earthquake survivors in the frigid mountains of southwestern
Pakistan on Thursday, as a provincial official reported that the death
toll had risen to 215.

The 6.4 magnitude quake hit an area of Pakistan‘s
Baluchistan province near the Afghan border before dawn Wednesday,
demolishing an estimated 2,000 homes in a string of villages.

“Oh
God, what have you done?” wailed one woman as she surveyed the ruins of
hard-hit Wam village. The woman, who did not give her name, said she
had lost two brothers, two sons and a sister-in-law.

Officials
on Thursday declared the rescue phase of the operation over after
residents and emergency workers mounted a final search for survivors or
bodies buried in the rubble.

With
reports still coming in from outlying areas, provincial government
minister Zamrak Khan said the number of dead had risen to 215 and that
hospitals were still treating dozens of seriously injured people.

The
army airlifted supplies and medical teams into the hard-hit Ziarat
district, where an estimated 15,000 people were left homeless in the
region, which is some 6,561 feet above sea level.

Officials
said several thousand people spent Wednesday night in tent camps
erected by the military. But soldiers were unable to reach all outlying
areas before temperatures plunged to around the freezing point.

In
the hillside hamlet of Kawas, soldiers distributed blankets, tents and
sleeping bags to an impatient crowd of 500 people and helped load two
dozen trucks with supplies destined for other areas.

Dozens of people had slept in the open near the rubble of their simple mud and stone houses.

“We
passed the night shivering and with the children crying. There were
five of us wrapped in one blanket,” said Ala Uddin, a 30-year-old
farmer camped with about 15 relatives in an apple orchard.

The
International Committee of the Red Cross said it was distributing some
2,500 tents while a medical team with one ton of supplies was helping
at overcrowded hospitals.

“Overall, we
think the situation is under control though there is urgent need for
shelter and blankets because it is freezing up there,” Red Cross spokesman Marco Succi said.

The
need for shelter was high because many people were too scared to sleep
even in undamaged homes as aftershocks continued to rattle the region,
he said.

The latest quake comes at a precarious time for Pakistan, with the civilian government battling al-Qaida and Taliban attacks as well as a looming economic crisis.

At
least three hard-line Islamic organizations were quick to aid quake
survivors, according to an Associated Press reporter who toured the
area.

Among them was Jamaat-ud-Dawa,
designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government for links to Muslim
separatists fighting in India’s portion of the disputed Himalayan
region of Kashmir.

The group set up
relief camps and won friends among survivors of a 7.6-magnitude quake
that devastated Kashmir and northern Pakistan in October 2005, killing
about 80,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Baluchistan
is home to a long-running separatist movement, but has so far been
spared the level of militant violence seen in the northwestern tribal
areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan is prone to seismic upheavals since it sits atop an area of
collision between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, the same
force responsible for the birth of the Himalayan mountains.

Baluchistan’s capital, Quetta, was devastated by a 7.5-magnitude temblor in 1935 that killed more than 30,000 people.

Countries including the United States and Germany have offered to help with the latest disaster. However, officials say they can cope without a big international aid effort.

Source: AP

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