Pakistan's 6.4 Earthquake Kills at Least 200 People

A powerful earthquake has killed at least 200 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in south-west Pakistan, officials said today.

The death toll from the quake was expected to rise as reports arrived from remote areas of the affected Baluchistan province, which borders Afghanistan.

It struck two hours before dawn and had a preliminary magnitude of 6.4, the US Geological Survey reported.

It was 10 miles (15km) below the surface, and the Meteorological Department said there were two tremors, the second bigger than the first.

The worst-hit area appeared to be Ziarat, where hundreds of houses in five villages, mostly made of mud and timber, were destroyed.

The local mayor, Dilawar Khan Kakar, said hundreds of people had been injured and 15,000 left homeless. Some homes were buried in a landslide triggered by the quake.

Rescuers have pulled 160 bodies from the rubble in the Zaiarat valley area, one of Baluchistan's most popular tourist spots, he told Reuters.

"There is great destruction. Not a single house is intact," he said in an interview with Express News television.

"I would like to appeal to the whole world for help. We need food, we need medicine. People need warm clothes, blankets, because it is cold here."

Emergency workers were trying to reach places high in the mountains above the valley, where many people are believed to be trapped under debris.

Sohail-ur-Rehman, another senior official, said authorities were attempting to bury the dead as quickly as possible to prevent outbreaks of disease.

"Graves are being dug with excavators ... we can't keep dead bodies in the open," he told Reuters.

Farooq Ahmed Khan, the head of a national disaster management team, told Reuters that around 300 rescue workers had reached Ziarat, which has a population of 50,000, and tents, blankets and clothing were being flown in.

An Associated Press reporter said he had seen the bodies of 17 people who had been killed in one collapsed house and 12 who had died in another.

Survivors sat in the open, with little more than the clothes in which they had been sleeping.

In nearby Kawas, dozens of dead and injured were brought to a hospital. Mohammed Irfan, a doctor, said the hospital was unable to cope.

With roads blocked by landslides, officials said the army was airlifting troops and medical teams to villages in the quake zone. A field hospital and thousands of tents and blankets were also being brought to the area.

Najam Maghlani, a resident of Quetta, the provincial capital, told the BBC the quake had been "the worst 40 seconds of my life".

"It was a very strong earthquake," he said. "After the first jolt, which was not very strong, there was another big one.

"When I came out, I saw very strange things. It was like there was lightning all around the city. There was no electricity, but still there was light in the sky.

"The trees were jolting and shaking. It was just like a thunderstorm."

Large parts of south Asia are seismically active because a tectonic plate known as the Indian plate is pushing north into the Eurasian plate.

Today's quake was the deadliest since a 7.6-magnitude quake devastated Kashmir and northern Pakistan in October 2005, killing around 80,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Officials said the area affected today, 400 miles from the capital, Islamabad, was much less densely populated.

In 1935, about 30,000 people were killed and Quetta was largely destroyed by a severe earthquake.

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