Pakistan quake survivors face long wait for aid


A Pakistani earthquake survivor carries a bag of relief food supplies at Labach area, in the earthquake-devastated district of Awaran on September 26, 2013. Photo - AFP/Banaras Khan

Tens of thousands of survivors of Pakistan's earthquake waited for help in soaring temperatures Thursday, as the death toll rose past 350 and anger grew at the slow pace of government aid.

More than 100,000 people made homeless by Tuesday's 7.7-magnitude quake spent a second night in the open or under makeshift shelters as response teams struggled to reach the remote region in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.

"At least 355 people died and 619 others injured," the National Disaster Management Authority said in Islamabad.

It said 311 people died in Awaran district, where the quake struck, and 44 were killed in neighbouring Kech district.

The sheer scale of the territory involved is daunting -- the population of Awaran is scattered over more than 21,000 square kilometres (8,000 square miles) -- and infrastructure is extremely limited, with few medical facilities or even roads.

On top of the remote and rugged terrain, the area is also home to Baluch separatist rebels waging a decade-long insurgency.

Highlighting the danger from militants, a helicopter carrying the head of the National Disaster Management Authority came under rocket fire in Awaran, though no damage was done and no one was hurt.

The quake is Pakistan's deadliest since the devastating Kashmir tremor of 2005 which killed 73,000. The toll is expected to rise further as rescue teams dig through the rubble of countless flattened mud-brick homes.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told parliament "huge activity" was under way to help those affected but he admitted teams were struggling to reach some areas, even 40 hours after the quake.

The army has sent troops, medical staff and helicopters to help with rescue efforts, along with seven tonnes of food and a tonne of medicine.

In Arawan town, around 200 angry survivors demonstrated outside government offices complaining they had not been given food or shelter.

"We have not received anything from the government. We have not got any relief, there is no supply of foods or medicine," furious villager Abdul Latif, 25, told AFP.

Temperatures in the arid region were reaching 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) and many survivors said they were desperate for some relief from the blistering heat.

"We need shelter, we are lying under the open sky and have no tents, we need tents immediately," 54-year-old Chanda, his shirt torn open, told AFP.

"We need food and water, but first of all we need shade from the scorching sunshine."

The provincial disaster official Kakar said the quake had left more than 100,000 people homeless in Arawan, a dirt-poor expanse of land roughly the size of Wales.

The government is preparing to send more than 14,000 tents, Nisar said, and is using a C-130 transport plane to reach difficult areas.

"We have a major challenge in accessing and reaching far-flung areas to provide them logistic support," he said.

"Presently some 1,000 troops of Pakistan army are available on the ground while army has despatched another unit to the affected areas."

Search and rescue teams with search dogs and technical equipment have also been sent, he said.

Besides flattening homes and affecting more than 300,000 people in six districts, according to the Baluchistan government, the earthquake even created a new island about 650 feet off the coast.

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