Pakistan on Thursday deployed troops to rescue scores of people feared trapped under rubble after a strong earthquake killed 20 people and damaged hundreds of houses in the remote south-western region of Balochistan, the military said.
Military helicopters were deployed to deliver food supplies, medicines and medics to the town of Harnai in Balochistan where the earthquake struck before dawn while people were sleeping, Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langov said.
The military’s Urban Search and Rescue units were also being flown to the area to search for survivors, the statement added.
The 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck at 03:01 am (2201 GMT Wednesday) about 100 kilometres east of the provincial capital Quetta and could be felt in the southern city of Karachi and as far as the capital Islamabad.
At least 300 people were being treated for injuries at local hospitals, according to the statement.
Rescuers were trying to reach people trapped under the rubble, local administration chief Suhail Anwar said, adding: “We fear the death toll may go up once our teams reach the far-flung areas.”
Videos on social media show people running out of their houses in panic and screaming as buildings shook.
The jolts triggered landslides at two locations along the main highway between Quetta and Harnai, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said.
Teams from military engineering units were using heavy machinery to remove rocks and clear the roads for ambulances and rescue vehicles to reach the region, the military statement added.
“We are trying to figure out what the scale of death and destruction is,” NDMA provincial chief Naseer Nasir said.
People with serious injuries were being transported to bigger hospitals in Quetta, minister Langov said.
Power was cut in many parts of the province, disrupting rescue activities and medical treatment at hospitals, Nasir added.
Earthquakes are frequent occurrences in the region and can cause huge damage.
In October 2015, a magnitude-7.5 earthquake killed more than 400 people and left several thousand others homeless in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
In 2005, more than 70,000 people died and millions were left homeless in northern Pakistan and parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir in the worst-ever tragedy to hit the country.