Pakistani officials say at least 23 people were killed and hundreds injured in an earthquake that struck the southwestern province of Balochistan, causing roofs and walls of mud brick homes to collapse while people slept.
The worst-affected area appeared to be the remote mountainous district of Harnai, close to the epicenter, where officials said hundreds had been left homeless after the early morning quake on October 7. At least 300 were being treated for injuries at local hospitals, officials said.
The death toll was expected to creep upward as crews searched in the remote mountainous area, said Suhail Anwar Shaheen, the local deputy commissioner.
“We have provided first aid to many wounded people here,” district Assistant Commissioner Noor Muhammad Nasar told RFE/RL. Many others had been moved to hospitals in the provincial capital, Quetta, he said.
The 5.9-magnitude quake struck at about 3 a.m. about 100 kilometers west of Quetta, at a depth of around 20 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Videos shared on social media show people running out of their homes in panic and screaming as buildings shook.
Aftershocks were felt in the southern city of Karachi and as far away as in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, about 900 kilometers to the northeast.
Pakistan straddles the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.
"We are trying to figure out what the scale of death and destruction is," said Naseer Nasar, the head of Balochistan's Provincial Disaster Management Authority, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.
Rescuers from military and civilian agencies have been dispatched to Harnai, but the disruption of electricity, as well as a lack of paved roads and mobile phone coverage, has hampered both rescue efforts and the treatment of those hospitalized.
As rescuers searched through the rubble, some of the injured were treated on stretchers in the street with the help of torches and mobile flashlights.
The dead were mostly women and children, officials said, and several people might still be trapped under the collapsed houses.
At least four of the dead were killed when the coal mine in which they were working collapsed.
The National Disaster Management Authority said the jolts triggered landslides at two places on the main highway between Quetta and Harnai.
Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he has "ordered immediate assistance on an emergency basis for the Harnai, Balochistan, earthquake victims & for an immediate assessment of the damage for timely relief & compensation.”
A 7.5-magnitude quake in October 2015 killed almost 400 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan was devastated by a 7.6-magnitude quake in October 2005 that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless.