Pakistan quake toll reaches 515, insurgents hamper aid efforts

Reuters

By Gul Yousufzai

ARAWAN, Pakistan, Sept 28 (Reuters) - The death toll from anearthquake in southwestern Pakistan has reached 515, aprovincial official said Friday, as insurgent attacks threatenrelief efforts and survivors complain of lack of shelter fromthe scorching sun.

Babar Yaqoob, the Chief Secretary of Baluchistan, gave theupdated death toll as he toured the destroyed region of Awaran,where the 7.7 magnitude quake struck on Tuesday.

A 6.8 magnitude aftershock jolted the same region onSaturday, bringing down more buildings amid ongoing search andrescue efforts. Local officials said by telephone it was likelythe second quake had caused more deaths.

Bodies are still being discovered in houses whose mud wallsand wooden roof beams had collapsed.

"My daughter was killed when my house collapsed - I was alsoinside my house but manage to run out," said 70-year-old GulJan. "We are sitting under the scorching sun and need shelter."

In Labash village near Awaran, more than half of the 3,000houses have collapsed and those still standing have wide cracks.

"Everywhere we go people are asking for tents," legislatorAbdul Qadeer Baloch said.

The arid area is also a stronghold of separatist Baluchinsurgents, who have twice shot at helicopters carrying militaryofficials in charge of responding to the disaster.

On Thursday, two rockets narrowly missed the helicoptercarrying the general in charge of the National DisasterManagement Agency and on Friday shots were fired at twohelicopters carrying aid, the military said.

"There is a law and order situation here and other hurdlesbut despite everything, we will get to every last person," saidLt. Gen. Nasir Janjua, the highest ranking military official inthe province.

Aid must travel by pitted roads that cut through mountainsheld by the insurgents.

The rebels, who have killed many civilians and members ofthe security forces, are fighting for independence fromPakistan. They accuse the central government of stealing theprovince's rich mineral deposits and the security forces ofwidespread human rights abuses.

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