At least 20 dead as houses collapse in Pakistan earthquake

At least 20 people have been killed after an earthquake struck Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, local officials said, with rescue teams attempting to clear debris and gain access to the area.

The 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck as most residents of the Harnai district, about 100km (60 miles) east of the provincial capital Quetta, were asleep at just past 3am local time (22:00 GMT) on Thursday, according to United States Geological Survey data. The tremor took place at a depth of about 20 kilometres (12 miles).

“At least 20 people have been killed and we are estimating that about 100 are injured,” provincial minister Zia Langove told Al Jazeera by telephone.

Langove said that rescue efforts had been hampered due to landslides caused by the earthquake having blocked roads in the area.

“There has been quite a lot of landsliding, and teams are currently working to clear the roads to the area,” Langove said. Rescue officials will be able to conduct a more accurate assessment of the damage once they have access to the area, he added.

Pakistan’s military said some rescuers had reached earthquake-hit areas of Harnai and nine of the critically injured had been airlifted to Quetta.

Necessary items for food and shelter, as well as army doctors and paramedics were helping civilian officials provide care to those affected by the disaster, the military said in a statement, adding that an urban search and rescue team was being flown from Rawalpindi to speed up and assist in rescue activities

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populated and least developed province, consistently ranking at the bottom of national human development indicator rankings.

Most homes in the Harnai area, where the earthquake occurred, are made of mud and stone, and are more susceptible to damage from earthquakes in comparison with concrete or brick structures.

Many of the victims died when roofs and walls collapsed, Suhail Anwar Hashmi, a senior provincial government official, told the AFP news agency.

A woman and six children were among the dead, he said.

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