QUETTA, Pakistan — Rescuers struggled today to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in a massive earthquake in southwestern Pakistan the day before as the death toll rose overnight to 271.
The earth moved with enough force to create a small island visible off the southern coast after the huge tremor, said Pakistani officials.
The magnitude 7.7 quake struck in the remote district of Awaran in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon. Such a quake is considered major, capable of widespread and heavy damage.
It was felt as far away as New Delhi, the Indian capital, some 740 miles away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there.
A provincial official in Baluchistan, Additional Home Secretary Zahid bin Maqsood, put the death toll at 271 and said 375 people had been injured, while a spokesman for the provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, put the death toll at 238 — conflicting figures likely due to the difficulty in contacting local officials and people in the remote region.
“We need more tents, more medicine and more food,” said Bulaidi.
He described a horrific scene of people who lost limbs in the quake and who will need to be sent to hospitals in Quetta and in Karachi along the Arabian Sea.
The quake flattened wide swathes of Awaran, the district where it was centered. Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed.
Local Pakistani TV channels showed images of devastated villages in remote areas. Houses made mostly of mud and handmade bricks had collapsed, walls and roofs caved in and people’s possessions scattered on the ground.
An unidentified man who appeared to be injured in his leg was shown supported by two men helping him walk. He said he was drinking tea when he heard a loud bang: “It shook everything.”
In Pakistani cities such as Karachi and Quetta people ran into the streets in fear, praying for their lives when the quake hit.
The Pakistani military said it had rushed almost 1,000 troops to the area overnight and was sending helicopters as well. A convoy of 60 Pakistani army trucks left Karachi early today, carrying supplies for those affected by the quake.
Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region.
Officials were investigating a small island that appeared off the coast of Pakistan after the quake, apparently the result of earth and mud pushed to the surface. Gwadar Police Chief Pervez Umrani said people gathered on the beach to see the land mass.
The head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan confirmed that the mass was created by the quake and said scientists were trying to determine how it happened.