A 7.7 magnitude earthquake occurred Tuesday, September 24, 69 kilometres northeast of Awaran in the remote region of Balochistan, Pakistan. Emergency response and relief efforts have been difficult due to the mountainous terrain. It is estimated that 300,000 people have been affected in the region. The death toll of 355 continues to rise as rescue workers search through the rubble. According to the government’s most recent Situation Report, many areas are still inaccessible. Rescue efforts slowed Thursday as an army helicopter with two high-ranking generals on board came under rocket fire near Balochistan’s Awaran district. The army said they will continue rescue and relief operations in the area.
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]Roads are nonexistent in some areas, so aid is airlifted to such places, and helicopters and C-130 planes are being used for that… we fear the death toll could rise, as we still have to reach out to some far-flung areas. — Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan[/pullquote]
The army is flying severely injured individuals to hospitals in Karachi to receive proper medical care. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Balochistan issued a press release Thursday afternoon, confirming that Awaran suffered the area’s greatest hit from the earthquake. 95 percent of the houses were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake and aftershocks. The listed total number of casualties are 355 dead, 619 injured. In Awaran there are 311 deaths and 440 injuries; in Kech there are 44 deaths and 179 injuries. Officials stressed that there are ongoing rescue and relief operations involving the army, paramilitary forces and civilians. Food and other necessities were distributed in some of the remote area via helicopter.
The Red Crescent has disaster preparedness stocks in the region that can be mobilized rapidly, but the biggest challenge is reaching the affected area… It takes between 18-20 hours to travel to Awaran from Quetta and it’s unclear how many villages surrounding the epicentre still haven’t been reached. Some may not be accessible by road. — Mike Higginson, acting head of delegation for the IFRC in Pakistan
The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (Quetta) has been issuing updates today on Facebook. Most of the Red Crescent supply hubs are hundreds of kilometres away. In one of their recent updates, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society announced that 3 teams had been deployed to the town of Awaran, “Two health teams (1 doctor, 2 paramedics and 1 x ambulance with driver in each team) and one disaster response and coordination team left during the day after the medicines were loaded. The teams will travel round the clock to reach the affected area. The estimated travel time from Quetta to Awaran is 18 to 20 hours.”
Although there have been national efforts amassed to help, some non-governmental organisations, such as the IRIC, have not deployed to Western Pakistan to assist in the aftermath because of ongoing security concerns. “Not only is the region remote, but security concerns mean that both the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are unable to directly conduct humanitarian operations in the area. However, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society has a well-established network on the ground and is able to operate freely,” said Patrick Fuller of the IFRC.
These are troubled regions . . . and we have heard about security concerns among the [nongovernmental relief groups] operating there. However, as an independent relief organization, we are just hoping we will not face any trouble out there. I believe the people know we are there for relief. —Bijar Khan Marri, spokesman for the Pakistan Red Crescent Society
The initial damage is hard to estimate, although with food, water, crops, and infrastructural damages by the earthquake in the region, one can conclude the scope of the catastrophe will be far-reaching for a long time. In Awaran alone, over 90% of houses have collapsed. Many houses in the area were built from mud, and as such, collapsed during the earthquake and it’s aftershocks. The earthquake has gotten global attention, but seems to have become most well-known for the island it has formed off the coast of Pakistan. This earthquake is said to be the worst earthquake since Turkey’s 2011 Van earthquake.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
Humanitarian Response Pakistan
Sindh Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA)
FATA Disaster Management Authority (FDMA)
Pakistan Red Crescent Society’s Facebook Page