An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale jolted parts of southwestern Baluchistan Province early Wednesday, causing widespread destruction, officials said. At least 170 people were killed and hundreds were injured, according to initial reports.
The earthquake struck Quetta, the provincial capital, and several districts of the province between 4:30 a.m. and 5:10 a.m., local time, the state-run news agency reported.
Farooq Ahmed Khan, the head of the national disaster management agency, said the situation “under control.” He described the earthquake as “localized” and said there was no immediate need to appeal for international assistance. But “any outside help is welcome,” he added.
“It was a shallow earthquake, which is very destructive,” said Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, the director general of Pakistan Meteorological Department. “The aftershocks will be felt for a week with more or less the same intensity.” said.
Mr. Chaudhry said the area was prone to earthquakes. The epicenter of Wednesday's quake was 70 miles north of Quetta. Army troops and medics were moved by helicopter from Quetta to two villages, Warchoom and Kawas, in Ziarat district, one of the hardest hit areas, a military spokesperson said.
Rescue teams scrambled to help residents and hospitals were placed on emergency alert.
Two thousand tents were dispatched to Baluchistan immediately, Mr. Khan said. “There were no major buildings in the area so there was no need for a technical search and rescue operation,” he said.
The districts of Kuchlak, Pishin, Chaman, Mastung and Loralai were also affected and panic-stricken residents of Quetta spilled into the streets.
“It was scary,” Malik Siraj Akbar, a resident of Quetta and a journalist for the Daily Times, an English-language daily, said by telephone. “The walls of the apartment complex where I live shook so hard that I just closed my eyes and waited for the roof to collapse. I feel so lucky to be alive.”
After the initial shocks, people ran out and spent two hours in the open. “Most were reluctant to go back inside the apartment complex,” Mr. Akbar said.
Junaid Tariq, an administrator at the Women's University in Quetta, said houses in the worst affected villages were frequently built of mud and logs and collapse easily. He said there was no electricity in Quetta.
Local television showed footage of residents sitting in the open, shivering in the cold. Women huddled in groups with their panicked children.
People were filmed searching through the rubble for survivors and belongings.
Baluchistan is one of four provinces in Pakistan. A low-intensity insurgency by Baluchi nationalists demanding greater autonomy and a bigger share of the national wealth has long simmered in the region.
Pakistan lies in an area of high seismic activity..
On Oct. 8, 2005, an earthquake registering 7.8 on the Richter scale killed more than 75,000 people in northern Pakistan and the part of the disputed Kashmir region that it administers, and an estimated 3.5 million people were left homeless. In 1935, Quetta was destroyed by an earthquake that killed 30,000 people..