Quetta, Pakistan (WNN) – At least one coal mine and dozens of mud houses collapsed in southwest Pakistan early Thursday in a powerful earthquake, killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 200, an official said. said.
Local Deputy Commissioner Suhail Anwar Shaheen said the death toll was expected to rise further as the crew carried out searches in the remote mountainous area.
Shaheen quoted coal miners in the area as saying that at least four people died when the coal mine they were working in collapsed. More than 100 houses also collapsed, burying the sleeping residents inside.
According to the US Geological Survey, the 5.9-magnitude quake’s epicenter was about 15 kilometers (9 mi) north-northeast of Harnai in Balochistan province. The initial measurement of the magnitude of the earthquake was 5.7. It fell about 9 kilometers (5.5 mi) below Earth’s surface; Shallow earthquakes cause more damage.
The area, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the province’s capital Quetta, is full of coal mines, which Shaheen worries the death toll could rise. He said it happened early in the morning, when several miners were already at work.
The Pakistan Army was deployed to the earthquake zone to airlift dozens of injured from the mountain peaks. Nine seriously injured people were taken to the provincial hospital in Quetta. An army statement said search and rescue teams had reached the mountains.
Concerns have risen about many coal miners being trapped. There are heaps of mud and straw in the houses. Residents of small hill villages were stunned among the rubble.
“Women, children, everyone was running here and there,” said resident Ghulam Khan. “We were scared and didn’t know what to do.”
An ambulance arrived soon after to take the injured to Harnai Hospital.
Doctors treated patients outside the hospital as tremors of magnitude 4.6 continued into the morning hours. Blood-soaked children were on stretchers outside the hospital as ambulances brought more injured.
“So far we have treated over 200 people,” said Manzoor Ahmed, medical superintendent of Harnai district hospital. He said that small rural facility has been taxed to the extent. 15 bodies were brought there.
Most of the population of the region lives in sun-covered mud houses, many of which have collapsed. Rescue efforts were on, but Shaheen said it would take hours to reach the most affected areas.
Witnesses from the area said residents, wrapped in blankets against the cold, were sitting by the side of the road waiting for the tremors to subside and help to arrive.
The area is remote and already autumn night temperatures are chilly.
According to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Pakistan’s south-west Balochistan is located in a seismically active region. A severe earthquake in 1935 devastated the provincial capital Balochistan and killed more than 35,000 people. Since then, there have been several earthquakes in Pakistan’s least populous province, with only 12 million people.
Pakistan is a country of 220 million people, of whom 60 percent live in the East Punjab province of the country.
Gannon reported from Islamabad