QUETTA - Another powerful jolt hit Awaran district of Balochistan on Saturday, killing around two dozen people in a region already devastated by Tuesday’s 7.7-magnitude earthquake which left more than 500 people dead.
Saturday noon’s heavy aftershock destroyed at least five major settlements in Mashkay tehsil and its surroundings, killing at least 22 people and leaving more than 50 injured. Officials fear the death toll of this second major jolt in the poorest district of Balochistan could rise further.
The new quake struck the area at a depth of 14 kilometres at 12:34pm according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Although USGS said it was an aftershock of the Tuesday’s quake, an official at the National Seismic Centre of Pakistan classified it as a new earthquake.
Mashkey Assistant Commissioner Mir Naseer Mosiani told this scribe that the settlements destroyed by the new quake were Gajjar, Nok Jo, Jibri, Rind Goth, Shadozai and its adjoining localities. “At least 22 people have been killed and 50 injured and the death toll may rise,” he said.
Mosiani said the new quake was dreadful as some of the mountains in the area exploded and sank following the earthquake. There were reports of land burst in many areas and sinking of the settlements. Earlier, score of natural springs disappeared in the earthquake creating a serious shortage of safe drinking water.
“This new earthquake destroyed all that remains of the first quake, two villages destroyed completely,” said Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik, who vowed to remain in affected areas to monitor the rescue and relief activities till the rehabilitation of all the affectees.
Officials said villagers were digging through newly created debris and that dozens of wounded people have been taken to a makeshift hospital in Mashkey. “The condition of some the injured was critical,” doctor Asif Anwar told from the makeshift hospital.
Awaran was shattered by Tuesday’s quake which left 515 dead and more than 100,000 people homeless. Sources claimed the number of deaths in Awaran and Kech districts alone had crossed the figure of 400 while hundreds others were with critical wounds. Even before the latest quake struck, local officials said some 30,000 survivors were still waiting for aid.
Relief efforts have at times been thwarted by insurgent attacks on rescue convoys, with local officials admitting that teams have been unable to reach thousands of survivors in the worst-hit areas. Being a remote area, Awaran is a stronghold of Baloch rebels. On Thursday, a NDMA chief’s helicopter came under rocket fire while flying in the district. On Friday, insurgents also opened fire on another helicopter and, in two separate incidents, fired on rescue convoys, officials said, adding that no one was hurt in the attacks.
Irshad Baloch, who had established a medical camp in the area, said a large number of injured and sick people, mostly women, reported to the camp where they were provided first aid. They were suffering from bone fractures and anxiety as a result of aftershocks. He also claimed that his camp came under attack from the air and some of the people fled the camp, leaving the seriously injured behind.
Shehzad Baloch, a resident of Nok Jo, told newsmen that his house developed some cracks in Tuesday’s quake but it collapsed in the fresh quake. He said his father sustained bone fracture and when he was taking him to a small camp, they were stopped by some armed men who fired on them upon being defied.
On the other hand Mr Ilahi Bakhsh Baloch, a volunteer belonging to SPO, said that his organisation had distributed food, medicine and other necessary items worth over one million rupees Teer Tej, Malar, Geshkaur and other areas. He claimed that his team was not obstructed by the local people but security forces did stop them and questioned about their movement. He said there was serious threat of outbreak of epidemics following large scale deaths of animals.
The situation has forced officials to abandon efforts to reach survivors directly, saying instead they will work through village committees and private NGOs. Chief Minister Abdul Malik said that food and other rescue items would be distributed through local villagers. He appealed to the local separatist groups to allow rescue officials to reach the survivors. “It is a humanitarian tragedy and I appeal them to allow rescue workers to help the survivors,” he said.
A local journalist Shabbir Rakhshani told The Nation that trucks with supplies had started moving to far flung areas to provide relief goods to affected people, after they remained parked outside Awaran Deputy Commissioner’s office for four long days. He confirmed that the chief minister held a meeting with the representatives of the NGOs to formulate a joint strategy for rescue and relief operation.
Meeting a delegation of affected people, CM Abdul Malik Baloch assured that the affectees would be provided shelter until their collapsed mud houses are rebuilt with concrete. He said federal and provincial governments would make all out efforts for assisting them. Separately, addressing district officers in Awaran, the CM told them to ensure their presence in the area. He said all departments should perform their duties with dedication at this critical juncture.
Representatives of some NGOs asked the CM to allow them to work in affected areas without getting NOC from Provincial Disaster Management Authority. The CM asked them to take active part in relief activities. He also visited quake-hit areas and condoled with the relatives of the deceased and asked the survivors to face this natural calamity with courage.