Two relief helicopters attacked; Balochistan quake toll rises to 359

Published September 27, 2013
Earthquake survivors salvage their belongings in the rubble of a collapsed mud house in an area of the district of Awaran on September 27, 2013. — Photo by AFP
Earthquake survivors salvage their belongings in the rubble of a collapsed mud house in an area of the district of Awaran on September 27, 2013. — Photo by AFP

QUETTA: Militants attacked two helicopters carrying relief goods in Balochistan's earthquake-affected Awaran district on Friday, the Frontier Crops spokesman said.

Khan Wasey, the FC spokesman said militants opened fire at two helicopters which were landing at Mashkay to provide relief goods to earthquake survivors.

"Small arms were used during the attack,” he said, adding that FC personnel engaged in relief activities retaliated and the militants sped away in their vehicles. "There was no loss of life."

In the second assault in as many days, the militants attacked the helicopter at a time when Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Malik Baloch, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan were on a visit to Awaran, the district in the province worst affected by Tuesday’s earthquake that has so far claimed 359 lives.

Moreover, 765 people were wounded in the 7.7 magnitude earthquake, with officials saying thousands had been left homeless and some 300,000 people had been affected in remote parts of the province.

Earthquake survivors carry relief goods that were collected from a distribution point in the town of Awaran, September 26, 2013. — Photo by Reuters
Earthquake survivors carry relief goods that were collected from a distribution point in the town of Awaran, September 26, 2013. — Photo by Reuters

The quake had toppled thousands of mud-built homes as it spread havoc through Awaran and Kech districts and through the southwestern parts of the country, Balochistan government spokesperson Mohammad Jan Buledi said.

Communications systems in the sparsely populated province were badly affected as a result of the earthquake and rescue workers were facing difficulties in reaching survivors in remote areas of the province.

Teams were working to recover bodies, but the priority was to move the injured to hospitals as soon as possible, a difficult task in a desolate area with minimal infrastructure.

Official sources told Dawn that the earthquake had rendered about 21,000 families homeless in the two districts.

They said an area spread over 40,000 square kilometres had been affected and the communications system, especially roads, had been badly damaged.

An earthquake survivor walks on the rubble of a mud house in the town of Awaran, September 27, 2013. — Photo by Reuters
An earthquake survivor walks on the rubble of a mud house in the town of Awaran, September 27, 2013. — Photo by Reuters

Earlier on Thursday, a helicopter carrying chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Major General Alam Saeed, came under rocket attack in the Mashkay tehsil of the province’s Awaran district.

Awaran is considered one of the most sensitive and troubled districts of Balochistan and is also the hometown of Baloch guerrila commander, Dr Allah Nazar Baloch and Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch has already made an appeal to Dr Allah Nazar to cooperate with aid agencies in order to provide support to earthquake survivors.

Balochistan is the country's most impoverished province. The lack of infrastructure such as decent roads has hampered relief efforts. The Pakistani military has been ferrying aid into the region by helicopter and evacuating the injured.

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