7.7 magnitude quake hits Pakistan, kills 46

A Pakistani woman speaks on her mobile phone after rushing out of her apartment following a major earthquake that struck Baluchistan province in southwest Pakistan. Photo / AP
A Pakistani woman speaks on her mobile phone after rushing out of her apartment following a major earthquake that struck Baluchistan province in southwest Pakistan. Photo / AP

A huge earthquake has hit southwest Pakistan, killing at least 46 people, toppling scores of homes and sending people around the region rushing into the streets in panic.

The 7.7-magnitude quake centred in Baluchistan province's Awaran district on Tuesday was felt as far afield as New Delhi and Dubai, residents said.

Officials said the quake, which struck at 4.29pm (11.29pm NZT), demolished dozens of houses in Awaran, 350km southwest of the Baluchistan provincial capital Quetta. Its epicentre was 20km below ground.

The area is sparsely populated and most buildings are mud-built, but the US Geological Survey issued a red alert, warning that heavy casualties were likely based on past data.

Asad Gilani, one of the most senior officials in the Baluchistan administration, told AFP that at least 46 people had been confirmed killed and 100 injured in the quake.

"A large number of houses have collapsed in the area and we fear the death toll may rise," said Rafiq Lassi, police chief for Awaran district.

The provincial government declared an emergency in Awaran and the military mobilised medical teams as well as 200 soldiers and paramilitary troops to help with the immediate relief effort.

"We have received reports that many homes in Awaran district have collapsed. We fear many deaths," Jan Muhammad Baledi, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government, said on the ARY news channel.

"There are not many doctors in the area but we are trying to provide maximum facilities in the affected areas."

Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

Abdul Qudoos Bizinjo, deputy speaker of Baluchistan's parliament, told Dunya TV there were reports of "heavy losses" in Awaran. Damage to the mobile phone network was hampering communications in the area, he said.

Awaran district has an estimated population of around 300,000, scattered over an area of more than 21,000 square kilometres.

Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital and even Dubai in the Gulf, while office workers in the Indian city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran out of buildings and into the street in panic.

In April a 7.8-magnitude quake centred in southeast Iran, close to the border with Baluchistan, killed 41 people and affected more than 12,000 on the Pakistan side of the border.

Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but least populous province, is believed to have substantial gas and oil reserves, but it is violent and unstable.

It is a flashpoint for growing violence against minority Shiite Muslims and has suffered attacks blamed on Taleban militants.

- AFP

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