Friday, October 31, 2008

Pakistani helicopters search for quake survivors

Survivors of an earthquake lie on beds at a makeshift hospital after the local hospital was damaged by an earthquake in Quetta, October 30, 2008.
REUTERS/Rizwan Saeed
People search for earthquake survivors at the site of a collapsed house near Ziarat, one of the main tourist spots in Baluchistan, October 30, 2008. Pakistani army helicopters scoured mountains on Thursday for survivors of a powerful earthquake that struck the previous day killing more than 200 people.
REUTERS/Athar Hussain
WAM, Pakistan, Pakistan-Pakistani army helicopters scoured mountains on Thursday for survivors of a powerful earthquake that killed about 215 people as stunned survivors sifted through the rubble of their homes.The 6.4 magnitude quake struck the Ziarat valley in the southwestern province of Baluchistan at dawn on Wednesday, leveling about 1,500 mud-walled houses, triggering landslides and leaving nearly 15,000 people homeless.Efforts shifted from rescue to relief as hundreds of injured people were taken to hospitals. But a senior military official said searches were being conducted in the mountains above the valley for any stranded villagers.Most of the valley's 50,000 people slept out in freezing temperatures on Wednesday night, either because their homes were destroyed or damaged, or because about 20 aftershocks, the biggest of 6.2 magnitude, left them too scared to sleep indoors.Maqbool Ahmed, 25, standing beside the rubble of his collapsed home in the badly hit village of Wam, said 14 members of his 18-member family were killed."My father, my mother, all of them are dead," said Ahmed, his dusty face streaked with tears."I buried my entire family with these hands. We lost everything, not in minutes but in seconds," said Ahmed as the morning sun brought relief from the biting night-time cold.The quake struck just over three years after 73,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake hit Pakistan's northern mountains. Last year, the worst floods on record in Baluchistan killed hundreds.The epicenter of Wednesday's quake was in Ziarat district, a picturesque valley and one of the province's main tourist spots.Baluchistan Revenue Minister Zamrak Khan said about 215 people were killed while 500 people were injured. The quake triggered landslides that destroyed some houses and blocked roads, complicating search and relief operations.The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva said estimates of the wounded ranged between 500 and 1,000. Two ICRC teams, including a surgical unit from Peshawar, had been sent to the area to assess needs.
Baluchistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani called for international help."A major effort is needed to rehabilitate the affected people. We urge the international community and international agencies to help us," he told a news conference.A Pakistani relief official said the United States and China had promised $1 million each for rehabilitation work, while Japan and several other countries had also promised help.
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