Pakistani rescuers pulled 175 bodies from the rubble of hundreds of mud-walled homes flattened by a powerful earthquake in the southwestern province of Baluchistan yesterday, government officials have said.
President Hu Jintao yesterday sent a message of condolence to his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari mourning the deaths.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) said a 6.4-magnitude quake hit 60 km northeast of the provincial capital, Quetta.
Pakistan's Meteorological Department put the magnitude of the quake at 6.5 and said the quake, at the shallow depth of about 10 km, struck at 5:10 am (7:10 am Beijing time).
Many people were believed to be buried under rubble and about 20 aftershocks rattled the nerves of survivors.
"The village has been flattened. You can't see a house still standing. There's destruction everywhere," said Abdul Rahim Ziyawal, a rescue worker in Wam, one of the worst-hit villages.
Pakistan is no stranger to natural disasters. In October 2005, about 73,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the northern mountains. Last year, the worst floods on record in Baluchistan killed hundreds.
The epicenter of yesterday's quake was in Ziarat district, a scenic valley and one of the main tourist spots in Baluchistan.
The chief administrator of Ziarat district, which has a population of about 50,000, said 160 bodies had so far been recovered.
The quake injured scores of people and triggered landslides that destroyed about 1,500 houses and blocked roads. Rescuers were still trying to reach some remote places in mountains above the Ziarat valley, where many people were believed to be buried.
A 6.2 magnitude aftershock struck at 5:32 pm but there were no immediate reports of more damage or casualties, the USGS said.
Another senior official in Ziarat, Sohail-ur-Rehman, said authorities were scrambling to help about 12,000 homeless people.
The army had sent helicopters and a medical team and paramilitary troops had joined the search for survivors, the military said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent two teams to the area. "Aftershocks have continued which we think will force the population to stay outside, and the weather is very cold," said ICRC spokeswoman Carla Haddad.
In Wam, villager Mohammad Aleem said his two brothers and a sister-in-law had been killed and he was looking for other relatives.
"I don't know who's survived and who's died. I'm still searching," said Aleem as he clawed through rubble with his hands.
（英语点津 Helen 编辑）
Dylan Quinnell is a freelance journalist and photographer from New Zealand who has worked in TV, print, film and online. With a strong interest in international affairs, he has worked in Denmark, Indonesia and Australia, covering issues like the EU, indigenous people and deforestation. Dylan is in Beijing on an Asia New Zealand grant working as a copy editor for the English news department.