Pakistani forces transporting rations to quake-stricken area fired on, 4 dead; another temblor kills
Los Angeles Times
KARACHI, Pakistan — A magnitude 6.8 temblor struck southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 15 people in the same province where several hundred people died in a major earthquake Tuesday.
Meanwhile, four members of Pakistan’s armed forces transporting rations to the earthquake-stricken area were shot to death by militants Saturday, the Pakistani military reported. The victims were Frontier Corps paramilitary troops. No insurgent group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, in which three other troops were wounded.
Saturday’s quake in Baluchistan province flattened most of the town of Nokjo, which has a population of at least 15,000, police said.
The death toll from Tuesday’s magnitude 7.7 earthquake, meanwhile, rose to at least 515 people, officials said.
Most of the houses in the area are made of brick, mud and other unreinforced materials. Some structures that were damaged Tuesday collapsed Saturday, officials said. The epicenter of both earthquakes was in Awaran, the worst-hit district.
The latest quake struck the remote area shortly before noon at a depth of 8.4 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
Tens of thousands of people were still waiting to receive food, tents and assistance in heat that has exceeded 105 degrees.
Aid and rescue efforts have been hampered by the remoteness of the area, damaged or nonexistent roads, poor communications and separatist insurgents who are reported to be worried that the Pakistani army, which is overseeing aid operations, will deploy more troops in the area.
Provincial officials have appealed to militants to allow rescue and recovery crews to do their job. The province, the largest but least populated in Pakistan, has struggled with a separatist insurgency for a decade.
The deadly attack Saturday was the latest in a series since the first quake struck. Insurgents have twice fired rockets at helicopters carrying aid workers or supplies and attacked an aid convoy escorted by soldiers.
Baluch insurgents, including such groups as the Baluch Liberation Army and Baluch Liberation Front, accuse the government of human rights abuses and exploiting the province’s natural resources while residents live in poverty. The area is among the most impoverished in the country.
The army and Frontier Corps have moved 1,000 troops into the worst-hit areas, but emergency workers fear people may still be trapped under debris in remote areas, which could further raise the death toll.
Some unofficial estimates place the number of dead at 700 and homeless at more than 50,000.
Special correspondent Nasir Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.