By Amjad Gulzar, Executive Director, Caritas Pakistan

An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck Balochistan in Pakistan on September 24, 2013 at 4:29pm (Pakistan Time).

Balochistan government spokesman Jan Mohammad Buledi confirmed Wednesday morning that 216 people have died and at least 373 people were injured.

Furthermore, the deaths of seven more people were reported from Turbat city in Kech district of Balochistan. The earthquake affected six districts in the province and that Awaran was the worst affected district other districts include Kech, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Chaghi, Awaran and Panjgoor. “An emergency has been imposed in all districts to help the earthquake survivors.

“Over 80 per cent mud-houses have collapsed or have been badly damaged in Awaran,” said Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad, adding that casualties and losses in several remote areas had also been reported but rescue teams had not been able to reach those places till late in the night.

Awaran Deputy Commissioner, Rashid Baloch said almost all houses and shops in the town and nearby villages had been destroyed or damaged. He said at least 19 people had died in the town, while reports of losses from remote areas were yet to be received. “We have started to bury the dead,” Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, the deputy commissioner of Awaran, told Reuters by telephone from the affected area.

Earthquake was so powerful that it caused a small island to emerge from the sea just off the coastline in the Arabian Sea. On the coast near Gwadar port, crowds of bewildered residents gathered to witness the rare phenomenon of the island that the quake forced out of the sea.

Government response

The army deployed helicopters and hundreds of soldiers to help deal with the rescue effort in the huge, earthquake-prone province of deserts and rugged mountains bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The government of Balochistan has dispatched 1000 tents, 500 food bags, medicines, 15 ambulances towards Awaran, Jan Buledi, the spokesman for Balochistan government.

A large number of injured people had been taken to the Khuzdar Civil Hospital and teams of doctors and paramedics had been sent to the affected areas from Lasbela and other districts. In response to a question about demanding foreign aid, he said, “after assessing the damages, we would make the decision in this regard.”

Caritas Pakistan involvement so far

Caritas Pakistan team led by Mr. Nisar Mushtaq Disaster Management Coordinator diocesan unit has left for Awaran. The diocesan office has conducted meeting with Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Balochistan is coordinating with other districts officials affected by the earthquake.