People carry the body of a person for burial following the earthquake on Thursday.—AFP
People carry the body of a person for burial following the earthquake on Thursday.—AFP

• 20 killed, nearly 300 injured in early morning earthquake
• Thousands rendered homeless as their houses collapse
• Landslides block several roads
• Army troops, FC men called in to help carry out rescue work

QUETTA: At least 20 people were killed and about 300 others injured when an earthquake struck northern Baloch­is­tan in early hours of Thurs­day, causing roofs and walls of mud-brick houses to collapse over residents in their sleep.

The worst-affected area was the remote mountainous district of Harnai, where landslides blocked some roads, hampering rescue efforts.

Authorities are also contending with phone and electricity outages after pylons were damaged.

The powerful quake hit four districts of Balochistan, including Quetta, at 3.01am. Harnai district, 95km northeast of Quetta, bore the brunt of the quake where casualties occurred and hundreds of mud-houses collapsed or were damaged, rendering thousands of people homeless.

“At least nine children and two women were among those who have lost their lives,” officials of the district hospital at Harnai said. “Three children of a family were killed when the roof of their house caved in.”

The tremor struck at a shallow depth of around 20km, its epicentre was located near Harnai town and it was also felt in Chaman, Pishin, Ziarat, Mastung, Sibi, Sanjavi, Qila Saifullah, Muslim Bagh, Zhob and Duki.

A road between Duki and Sanjavi was closed up to 5km due to landslides from nearby mountains after the earthquake. Power supply was suspended in the affected areas of Harnai causing difficulties in rescue and relief operations.

The army troops and personnel of Frontier Corps were called in to help local administration and the Provincial Dis­aster Management Autho­rity (PDMA) in rescue and relief operations.

The bodies and injured were shifted to the district hospital where emergency was declared and doctors and paramedical staff were called from adjoining districts.

Deputy Commissioner of Harnai Sohail Anwar Hashmi while confirming the casualties said that 100 of the 300 injured were allowed to go home after being administered first aid as they had received minor injuries. “As many as 25 injured were shifted to Quetta as they had received head injuries,” he said, adding that army helicopters were used for shifting injured people to Quetta and Ziarat. Nine injured were admitted to the Combined Military Hospital in Quetta.

Local authorities and PDMA officials said that hundreds of houses collapsed or were damaged in Harnai.

Government buildings were also damaged, Mr Hashmi told Dawn over phone.

With the help of the army, Frontier Crops and the PDMA the affected people were shifted to safe places, he said. Tents were erected in open grounds to house affected families. The army and FC set up medical camps were injured people were given medical treatment.

“I was sleeping when all of a sudden my entire house started jolting. I woke up and immediately took my wife and children outside of the house,” Munir Shah, who runs a grocery shop in Harnai town, told Dawn over phone.

A local journalist, Nawab Khan, said: “Massive destruction can be witnessed in Babu Mohalla where around 250 houses have collapsed or have been badly damaged and a large numbers of people injured.

“Mostly, people who lost their lives belonged to villages located on the outskirts of Harnai town, Mohammad Hanif told Dawn over phone. He said that he saw many people who were trapped under derbies.

Local authorities said that the entire town presented a picture of devastation, as no house looked safe and almost 70 per cent of power supply to the district had been disrupted.

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered immediate assessment of the damage and offered condolences to families that lost loved ones, adding, “I have ordered immediate assistance on an emergency basis,” he said.

Rescuers sifted rubble for survivors, with some of the injured being treated on stretchers in the street by torchlight from mobile telephones.

Aftershocks were being felt across the region. Pakistan sits on top of colliding tectonic plates and earthquakes are common.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan with his ministers flew to Harnai and supervised rescue and relief operations. He also visited houses of some grieved families and offered condolences. Inspector General of the FC (North) Maj Gen Mohammad Yousaf Mujka also reached the earthquake-hit area and assured the affected people that they would be no left alone in this hard time. Provincial Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana took an aerial round of the affected areas and asked the PDMA to provide help and relief to the affected people of Harnai.

Agencies add: A second jolt rocked the area around two hours after the first quake.

Naseer Nasar, the head of the PDMA, warned the death toll could rise.

“Our rescue teams have cleared 50 per cent of the roads leading to Harnai while remaining roads will be cleared in the next two to three hours,” Balochistan Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said, highlighting the strain rescue teams were under.

The US Geological Survey initially said the shallow quake measured 5.7, before revising it up to a magnitude of 5.9.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2021

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