Pakistan rescuers pull 175 bodies

WAM, Pakistan – About 175 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan on Wednesday, around 1,500 flattening mud-walled homes and causing landslides, officials said.

Wednesday was the epicenter of the earthquake in Ziarat district, a picturesque valley and a major tourist spots in Baluchistan.

Chief district administrator Dilawar Khan said 170 people had been killed in that district and 350 wounded.

“The rescue operation has ended. We have retrieved all the bodies and the wounded. Now the problem is a relief as there is a shortage of tents, blankets and food, while the weather is cold,” Khan told Reuters.

U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck 60 km (40 miles) northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta.

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department that the magnitude at 6.5 and said the earthquake, in the depth of about 10 km (six miles), struck at 5.10 am (2310 GMT Tuesday).

About 20 aftershocks, the largest of magnitude 6.2, caused more damage and rattle the nerves of survivors, as they scoured the rubble of their loved ones.

“The people have been crushed. You can not see a house still standing. There is no destruction around the world,” said Abdul Rahim Ziyawal, a rescue worker in Wam, one of the worst affected villages where the authorities were using bulldozers to dig mass graves.

Pakistan is no stranger to natural disasters. In October 2005, some 73,000 people were killed when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit northern mountains. Last year, the worst floods in Baluchistan in the registry killed hundreds.

Khan said most people in the hilly district Ziarat, which has a population of about 50,000, went to sleep, either because their houses were destroyed or damaged, or because it leaves them replicas too sacred to sleep inside.

The earthquake triggered landslides that destroyed some houses and blocked roads, complicating the search and relief operations.

The army had sent helicopters and a medical team and paramilitary troops have joined the search for survivors.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent two teams to the area. “Tremors have continued to believe that force the population to stay away, and the weather is cold,” said ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad.

Another five people were killed in the neighboring district of Pishin, north of Quetta, officials of the district government said.

In Wam, Mohammad Aleem villager told his two brothers and one sister-in-law had been murdered and was in search of family members.

“I do not know who is and who survived the death. I’m still looking,” said Aleem as it recovered through the rubble with bare hands.

The head of a national disaster management team, Farooq Ahmed Khan, told about 300 rescue workers had arrived in Ziarat. Tents, blankets and clothing were being flown in.

The Meteorological Department said two tremors had beaten before dawn, with the second, a larger nearby about 35 minutes after the first.

“There were two shocks. The first was mild but I have made my family leave, and then the roof of my house gave way to strong,” said Khadija, 50 years old at Wam, still quivering with shock.

In 1935, about 30,000 people were killed and Quetta was largely destroyed by a severe earthquake.

Much of the south Asian earthquake are active, because a tectonic plate, known as the India plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.

Baluchistan, Pakistan is the largest province, but its most sparsely populated. It has the country’s largest natural gas reserves, but there were no reports of damage to gas facilities.

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