Caritas: medical shortages affecting Baluchistan earthquake victim relief
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake is the strongest in the last 40 years. So far, only Pakistan has released its number of casualties. Nothing has come from Iran. The affected area is one of the poorest in the country under the control of paramilitary forces. Catholic rescuers workers are active in the area.

Khash (AsiaNews) - A 7.8-magnitude quake killed at least 40 people in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, on the border with Iran with the epicentre located some 83 km east of Khash (southeastern Iran). A 5.7 aftershock was recorded this morning, 107 km east of the city. On the Iranian side, state media said 27 people were injured, although they had initially reported at least 40 dead, close to the city of Khash (population, 180,000) and Saravan (population, 250,000).

Contacted by AsiaNews, Caritas Pakistan officials said that at least 70 per cent of the houses had collapsed on the Pakistani side. So far, only Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps Baluchistan (FCB) has set up a series of camps for internally displaced persons and basic medical care. However, according to Caritas, "there are not adequate medical drugs to treat the wounded."

Yesterday's earthquake is the strongest recorded in Iran and Pakistan in the last 40 years, unleashing 180 times the energy than the most recent quake, that of 9 April, in southern Iran's Bushehr province. Forty people died in that quake.

All the fatalities recorded so far from the latest quake are on the Pakistani side, in Mashkel, where the Pakistan army has dispatched relief teams to provide aid to residents. Some 45,000 people live in the town, with some 2,000 villages in the area. The area is largely a desert, one of the poorest regions in the country.

For decades, the FCB has policed the area and is working with the army on this occasion.  FCB Major Attiq Minhas said that FCB personnel were involved in the rescue operation. Two military helicopters were on their way to the remotest villages.

The situation is different in Iran, where local news agencies, Fars and ISNA, have been reporting little damage because the region is sparsely populated, dismissing previous alarmist reports by Iranian media of scores of causalities. Since most of the residents live in tents or mud houses damage and injured were limited, they said.

For experts, a greater catastrophe was averted largely because of to the depth of the earthquake, about 95 km, which reduces it to a magnitude-4.0 tremor on the surface.

Yesterday's quake caused panic as far as Pakistan's capital of Islamabad and in Karachi, where people poured into the streets. Scenes of panic were also reported in New Delhi (India) and in the Persian Gulf. In Kuwait, Qatar, and eastern Saudi Arabia, the authorities evacuated several buildings.

In 2003, approximately 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake that flattened the historic city of Bam, in southeastern Iran.