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Illustration by Security Management

5.9 Earthquake in Pakistan Leaves at Least 15 People Dead

An earthquake in southern Pakistan has left at least 15 people dead and injured hundreds more. 

The earthquake, which registered a magnitude of 5.9 on the Richter scale, occurred east of the city of Quetta and collapsed approximately 250 homes. The quake occurred during the early morning on Thursday, 7 October, with the U.S. Geological Society reporting it striking at a shallow depth of about 12 miles (20 kilometers), according to Reuters 

Earthquakes are not uncommon in the region as the country and neighboring Afghanistan lie on top of a major, active fault line, the Chaman Fault, which is where the Eurasian and Indo-Australian tectonic plates meet.  

Rescue efforts in the Harnai district of Pakistan's Balochistan province have responders sorting through debris for survivors while the injured are either treated on stretchers or airlifted to the Civil Hospital in Quetta.  

One exacerbating factor is that most homes in the area are constructed with stone and mud, and therefore more easily damaged by earthquakes than buildings made of brick or concrete. 

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, issued an emergency order for assistance and an assessment of the damage caused by the quake. A provincial disaster management official, Osama bin Ijaz, told Al Jazeera that rescue efforts are on-site and ongoing, as well as surveys of damages to buildings in Harnai.  

While some rescuers were able to reach parts of the district, however, landslides caused by the quake hampered other efforts.

“A road leading to the district has been blocked by a landslide, according to the Balochistan Levies Force, the paramilitary law enforcement group in the province,” CNN reported. “A video posted by the group on Twitter showed officers working to clear the road, removing debris by hand in the headlights of two vehicles.”  

“Necessary items for food and shelter, as well as army doctors and paramedics, were helping civilian officials provide care to those affected by the disaster, the military said in a statement, adding that an urban search and rescue team was being flown from Rawalpindi to speed up and assist in rescue activities,” Al Jazeera reported. 

Along with destroying hundreds of homes and buildings, the quake also triggered power outages across the remote and mountainous district, according to CNN. The area is home to coal mining communities and scattered villages. 

Local Deputy Commissioner Suhail Anwar Shaheed said that a coal mine collapse, triggered by the quake, killed at least four people. While many people were still asleep in their homes at 3 a.m., when the earthquake hit, “scores of miners were already at work,” NPR reported. 

While aftershocks are still striking, some as high as a 4.6 magnitude on the Richter scale, doctors are treating the injured outside of the hospital building that serves as Harnai’s district hospital. An added layer of difficulty for some of the injured is that, according to a survivor who spoke to Al Jazeera, many residents in the area do not own a personal vehicle, so getting people to a hospital could be difficult. 

Suhail Anwar Hashmi, a senior provincial government official, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that several victims died when roofs and walls collapsed, and at least one woman and six children are included among the dead, according to The Guardian. Although the death toll estimates that between 15 and 20 people are dead, that number could rise.