25 Sep 2013

Toll keeps rising in Pakistan quake

11:48 pm on 25 September 2013

Rescue teams are racing to a remote part of Pakistan where a powerful earthquake has killed at least 328 people and injured hundreds more.

The 7.7 magnitude quake hit at a depth of 20 kilometres in the southwest province of Balochistan and was felt as far away as India's capital, Delhi.

Pakistan's army has sent 100 medical staff and 1000 troops to help with rescue efforts and has established a medical centre in one of the worst-affected villages.

There are reports of people trapped under the rubble of collapsed houses, many of which are made of mud.

Officials say more than 90% of the houses in Awaran district have been demolished

Witnesses say after the quake a small, mountain-like island about 600 metres off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea, Reuters reports.

Police there say people gathered on the beach to see the new island, which is about nine metres high and 100 metres long.

Television channels showed images of a stretch of rocky terrain rising above the sea level. A crowd of bewildered people gathered on the shore to witness the rare phenomenon.

The United States Geological Survey says the earthquake struck 235 kilometres southeast of Dalbandin in Pakistan's quake-prone province of Balochistan, which borders Iran.

Officials say scores of mud houses were destroyed by aftershocks in the thinly populated mountainous area near the epicentre.

Deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly Abdul Qadoos told Reuters at least 30% of houses in the impoverished Awaran district have caved in.

A reporter in Karachi, Raza Ali, told Morning Report emergency services have swung into action.

He says the provincial government has dispatched 1000 tents, along with food bags, medical supplies and ambulances.

Mr Ali says most of the deaths have been the result of collapsing houses.

No NZers registered

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says 69 New Zealanders are registered as living in Pakistan but no one is registered as being in the affected province.

It says the New Zealand Embassy in Tehran, which is accredited to Pakistan, is working with local authorities.

Pakistan's High Commission in New Zealand is trying to contact the community living here and says it can help people find relatives in Pakistan.

Anxious Pakistanis in New Zealand have been contacting family members in the province.

Pakistan Association president Ali Tajik says people have been able contact family there and relatives have so far been reported as safe.

Mr Tajik says he knows of about 20 families from the province in New Zealand but there are likely to be more.