UPDATE: Death Toll In Pakistan Quake Jumps To 271; New Island Created

By: Associated Press, ABC News Email
By: Associated Press, ABC News Email

This image shows what appears to be a new island off the coast of Pakistan after the Sept. 24, 2013 earthquake struck the country. (courtesy Latif Baloch/ABC News)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2013

A Pakistani official says the death toll from a massive earthquake that struck the country's southwest has jumped to 271.

Maj. Gen. Muhammad Saeed Aleem, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said on Wednesday that 246 people were also injured.

The 7.7 magnitude quake struck Tuesday in the country's Baluchistan province.

Aleem spoke to reporters in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

The remoteness of the area and lack of infrastructure has hampered relief efforts.

"It was nothing short of a miracle," Behram Baloch, a resident of the southern port city of Gwadar, told ABC News referrign to the new island.

Accounts of the size and shape of the island vary. Baloch describes it as roughly 200 feet long, jutting out from the water roughly a quarter mile from the coastline. Pakistan TV channels broadcast footage of the island, shot from land, showing a grainy, rocky mass surrounded by water.

A fisherman who saw the island being formed say it was a gradual process, not sudden like an apparition.

"All the people from the village came out to see it and were praying at the same time," he says. "Tomorrow, I will go to see it up close."

But for as much as the earthquake created, it also destroyed.

The earthquake was felt as far away as India's capital, Delhi, and Karachi's biggest city, Karachi. The epicenter was a rural area in Balochistan, Pakistan's biggest but least populated province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran. The area consists of villages with mostly mud-brick homes and poor to non-existent transportation infrastructure, leaving rescue teams worried the death toll will rise sharply overnight.

Pakistani TV channels aired footage showing a steady stream of panicked workers in Quetta, the nearest major city to the quake's epicenter, flowing out from their buildings after the first tremors hit. Residents say the shaking lasted for as long as a minute before it subsided.

Initially the USGS registered the quake as a 7.4, but quickly changed its assessment. Within hours of the initial quake, the USGS registered two additional ones, measuring 5.9 and 5.6, both in the same area where the first one struck.

The deputy speaker of the Balochistan Provincial Assembly, Abdul Qadoos, told news agencies he believes at least 30 percent of all houses in Awaran, the village closest to the epicenter, were destroyed.

To help with rescue efforts, the Pakistani army deployed 300 soldiers to the affected area, a number that is expected to rise to 1,000 by Wednesday morning. The home base for rescue efforts its Khuzdar, one of the regions hard hit by the quake, with a population of more than half a million.

"Night flying helicopters with medics on their way," Major General Asim Bajwa, who handles external communication for the Pakistani military, tweeted.

Rescuers face a daunting task that poses several significant challenges. For one, getting to the hardest hit areas will be, literally, an uphill struggle. The area is rocky and partly mountainous, populated by several Pakistani tribes, some of whom are nomadic. The nearest major city, Quetta, is an eight-to-ten hour drive away. The area is overwhelmingly rural.

Damage to cell phone towers has made communication to some villages all but impossible. Pakistan also suffers from chronic electricity outages that can last for several hours, especially in smaller villages and towns. There is a concern that what little power the area received may have been cut off due to damaged transformers.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An official says the death toll has risen to 39 in a major earthquake in southwestern Pakistan.

The chief spokesman for the country's National Disaster Management Authority, Mirza Kamran Zia, says most of the casualties occurred when houses collapsed on people inside.

Tuesday's quake hit a remote area of Baluchistan province. Baluchistan is the country's largest province but also the least populated.

Pakistani officials put the quake size at magnitude 7.7, while the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. reported the quake as magnitude 7.8.

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Pakistan's chief meteorologist says a major earthquake has struck the country's Baluchistan province.

Mohammed Riaz says the magnitude 7.7 quake hit on Tuesday near the town of Khuzdar in Baluchistan.

The province in southwest Pakistan is the country's largest but also the least populated. There was no immediate word on casualties.

The province is prone to earthquakes.

A magnitude 7.8, which was centered just across the border in Iran, killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.

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