Islamabad, Pakistan – At least 20 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded after an earthquake strikes Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, local officials say, with rescue teams attempting to clear debris and gain access to the area.
The 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck as most residents of the Harnai district, about 100km (60 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta, were asleep at just past 3am local time (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, according to United States Geological Survey data.
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The tremor took place at a depth of about 20 kilometres (12 miles).
The provincial disaster management authority said at least 200 people were injured.
“Rescue officials have reached the scene and are working,” Osama bin Ijaz, a provincial disaster management official, told Al Jazeera.
A survey of the damage to the houses and other buildings in Harnai was ongoing, he said.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has “ordered immediate assistance on an emergency basis” to residents of the area following the earthquake.
I have ordered immediate assistance on an emergency basis for the Harnai, Balochistan, earthquake victims & for an immediate assessment of the damage for timely relief & compensation. My condolences & prayers go to the families who lost their loved ones.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 7, 2021
Provincial minister Zia Langove told Al Jazeera by telephone that rescue efforts had been hampered due to landslides caused by the earthquake having blocked roads in the area.
“There has been quite a lot of landsliding, and teams are currently working to clear the roads to the area,” Langove said. Rescue officials will be able to conduct a more accurate assessment of the damage once they have access to the area, he added.
Pakistan’s military said some rescuers had reached earthquake-hit areas of Harnai and nine of the critically injured had been airlifted to Quetta.
Necessary items for food and shelter, as well as army doctors and paramedics were helping civilian officials provide care to those affected by the disaster, the military said in a statement, adding that an urban search and rescue team was being flown from Rawalpindi to speed up and assist in rescue activities
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populated and least developed province, consistently ranking at the bottom of national human development indicator rankings.
Most homes in the Harnai area, where the earthquake occurred, are made of mud and stone, and are more susceptible to damage from earthquakes in comparison with concrete or brick structures.
Many of the victims died when roofs and walls collapsed, Suhail Anwar Hashmi, a senior provincial government official, told the AFP news agency.
A woman and six children were among the dead, he said.
Sanaullah, a survivor of the earthquake, said his mother was admitted to Quetta’s Civil Hospital, where some of the injured were being treated.
“The earthquake came at 3:00 in the morning, and we ran from our home. The roof of the house fell, and because of that our mother was injured. She has received head injuries,” he told Al Jazeera.
“There are a lot of people there who don’t have their own cars, and they are stuck there… There is a lack of health facilities there, and because of that, serious patients are facing a lot of difficulties,” he said.
Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta, Pakistan