Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pakistan rescuers pull 175 bodies from quake rubble

WAM, Pakistan-About 175 people were killed when a powerful earthquake hit the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan on Wednesday, flattening about 1,500 mud-walled homes and triggering landslides, officials said.The epicenter of Wednesday's quake was in Ziarat district, a scenic valley and one of the main tourist spots in Baluchistan.Chief district administrator Dilawar Khan said 170 people had been killed in that district and 350 injured."The rescue operation is over. We've retrieved all bodies and the injured. Now the problem is relief as there's a shortage of tents, blankets and food while the weather is getting cold," Khan told Reuters.The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.4 magnitude quake struck 60 km (40 miles) northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta.Pakistan's Meteorological Department put the magnitude at 6.5 and said the quake, at the shallow depth of about 10 km (six miles), struck at 5.10 a.m. (2310 GMT on Tuesday).About 20 aftershocks, the biggest of 6.2 magnitude, caused more damage and rattled the nerves of survivors as they scoured the rubble for loved ones."The village has been flattened. You can't see a house still standing. There's destruction everywhere," said Abdul Rahim Ziyawal, a rescue worker in Wam, one of the worst-hit villages where authorities were using excavators to dig mass graves.Pakistan is no stranger to natural disasters. In October 2005, about 73,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake hit northern mountains. Last year, the worst floods on record in Baluchistan killed hundreds.Khan said most people in the hilly Ziarat district, which has a population of about 50,000, were sleeping out, either because their homes were destroyed or damaged, or because aftershocks left them too sacred to sleep inside.
The quake triggered landslides that destroyed some houses and blocked roads, complicating search and relief operations.The army had sent helicopters and a medical team and paramilitary troops had joined the search for survivors.The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent two teams to the area. "Aftershocks have continued which we think will force the population to stay outside, and the weather is cold," said ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad.Another five people were killed in neighboring Pishin district, to the north of Quetta, district government officials said.
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