09/25/2013, 00.00
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Pakistan earthquake : 208 people dead and over 370 injured

The quake struck yesterday afternoon in a remote area of the southwestern province of Baluchistan . The 7.7 magnitude quake was felt in New Delhi , India. Thousands of people displaced by the collapse of houses, at least 90 % of homes destroyed. Basic necessities and tents arrive, but medicines and hospitals are lacking.

Islamabad ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 208 dead and more than 370 people injured.  This is the provisional toll from the powerful earthquake that struck yesterday afternoon at 16:31 local time in Balochistan province in south- western Pakistan , causing the collapse of hundreds of homes . The quake was felt clearly in neighboring India, in New Delhi , where buildings shook for a few seconds. According to the U.S. Geological Survey the quake was magnitude of 7.7 and struck at a depth of 20 km underground, north- east of Awaran , along the road that connects Quetta to Karachi.

Many homes were damaged enough to force thousands of people to sleep in the open . The quake was strong enough to bring out a small island - 100 meters wide and nine high - off the coast , not far from the port of Gwadar, a free zone important for trade. Balochistan is the largest of the Pakistani provinces but also the least inhabited because of the roughness of the region, often the scene of earthquakes on the border with Iran, as was the case last April.

Witnesses tell of thousands of people in a panic , reciting verses from the Koran and praying to God for comfort. The authorities expect an increase in the number of victims in the coming hours and launch appeals for lack of medicines and places equipped for tending the wounded. More serious cases were transferred to Karachi by helicopter, while others were sent to medical structures in neighboring districts . Administration officials in Awarn - which has about 300 thousand inhabitants in total - reported that "at least 90%" of the houses in the district were destroyed.

The central government has sent about 200 soldiers in the area, to help with recovery operations for the missing and aid to the population. The fact that the great majority of the houses are built of mud and earth compounds the death toll, there are few concrete structures , the majority of them are government buildings. Teams of doctors have arrived along with basic necessities and a thousand tents to house the displaced .

The area affected by the earthquake yesterday was the scene of battles between separatist rebels of Baluchistan and Islamabad troops, with rebels targeting symbols of the state, development projects and infrastructure. A military source reported gunfire on a convoy transporting doctors to the earthquake area, but there is no independent confirmation about the attack that caused no injuries.

Experts in seismology and volcanology define the area where the earthquake happened yesterday "among the most complex" on earth, because the meeting point of the Indian plate (south- east), Arab plate (south -west) and the Eurasian plate (north ) . The Kirthar fault generated the earthquake.  The fault line is believed to have an extension of 200 km and touches the region (mountainous and mostly desert) of Baluchistan , which in turn overlooks the Indian Ocean.


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