Balochistan bore the brunt of the powerful earthquake that struck southeast Iran near the border with Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people and wounding more than 200.
The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude quake hit at 3:45pm (Pakistan time) at a depth of 82km. The epicentre was 198km southeast of the Iranian city of Zahedan and 250km northwest of Turbat in Balochistan. The tremors were felt across Pakistan and as far as the Gulf States and New Delhi.
Details emerging from the province said 34 people were killed and more than 200 were injured in Mashkhel district, which was the worst affected by the calamity. Countless houses and buildings were flattened in the disaster.
A senior administration official of the border region confirmed to The Express Tribune that the casualties were based on initial reports, saying “We are still waiting for details from far flung regions.”
Qasim Mulazai, a journalist from Kharan district, also confirmed the casualties in Mashkhel to The Express Tribune, adding that over 1,500 houses were destroyed.
But the remote location of the region is making it difficult for authorities to collect accurate data.
Deputy Commissioner Washuk Khan Muhammad Bangulzai said the communication system and infrastructure in Mashkhel was in ruins, adding that the worst hit areas were 300km away from the district headquarters which meant the relief work began much after the quake. “I can’t tell you the exact death toll yet,” he said.
Director General Provincial Disaster Management Authority Tahir Minhas said the authority had begun relief work and sent relief trucks to Khalid Airbase from where they would be airlifted to the stricken areas.
Around 60 tents, 50 blankets and 50 food packets had been dispatched to the airbase and a team of doctors was also ready to take-off for Mashkhhel.
The Balochistan government has declared a state of emergency, and Caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai also requested the army and Frontier Corps for help in relief work.
Army begins relief, rescue operation
The Pakistan Army has started relief and rescue operations in the quake-hit areas of Balochistan, said a statement from the ISPR.
FC troops from the 62 Wing located in Mashkhel were tasked by the Headquarters Southern Command to respond to the natural calamity, and additional FC troops were moved from Kharan.
Army helicopters were also flown to Mashkhel along with medical staff, tents, medicines and other relief items.
“900 kilogrammes of medicine and 5 tons of rations have reached Mashkhel,” the ISPR statement said.
Quake causes panic in Sindh, Punjab
Tremors were felt in Sindh and Punjab as well, causing panic and immediate evacuation of offices, towers and residential buildings.
In Karachi, shocks were felt different parts of the city, causing people to run outdoors in panic. Major thoroughfares and roads were gridlocked as people tried to get home in a hurry. Apart from Karachi, tremors were felt all the way in upper Sindh, including Sukkur, Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Larkana.
Businesses and residences were also evacuated in Lahore as a precautionary measure as many areas of the city experienced tremors.
Iran relatively unscathed
On the other hand, Iran appeared to have emerged relatively unscathed with state media reporting that 27 people were injured.
Soon after the quake, an Iranian official told Reuters he expected hundreds of dead and state media quoted unconfirmed reports of 40 fatalities in Iran.
But Hatam Narouyi, Governor of Sistan Baluchistan province, said there were “no fatalities”, the student news agency ISNA reported.
People in the city of Zahedan poured into the streets when it struck, Fars news agency reported.
Iranian Red Crescent official Morteza Moradipour said emergency crews, including dog teams to sniff through the debris for any buried survivors, had reached the area.
UN, US offer help
The UN and US have offered to help Iran and Pakistan following the devastating earthquake, a spokesman said.
“The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is in contact with the authorities in Iran and Pakistan and is monitoring the situation and stands ready to assist upon request,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
“The US does stand ready to assist either Iran or Pakistan at this point,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2013.