By Gul Yousufzai
ARAWAN, Pakistan, Sept 28 The death toll from an
earthquake in southwestern Pakistan has reached 515, a
provincial official said Friday, as insurgent attacks threaten
relief efforts and survivors complain of lack of shelter from
the scorching sun.
Babar Yaqoob, the Chief Secretary of Baluchistan, gave the
updated 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 on
Saturday, bringing down more buildings amid ongoing search and
rescue efforts. Local officials said by telephone it was likely
the second quake had caused more deaths.
Bodies are still being discovered in houses whose mud walls
and wooden roof beams had collapsed.
"My daughter was killed when my house collapsed - I was also
inside my house but manage to run out," said 70-year-old Gul
Jan. "We are sitting under the scorching sun and need shelter."
In Labash village near Awaran, more than half of the 3,000
houses have collapsed and those still standing have wide cracks.
"Everywhere we go people are asking for tents," legislator
Abdul Qadeer Baloch said.
The arid area is also a stronghold of separatist Baluch
insurgents, who have twice shot at helicopters carrying military
officials in charge of responding to the disaster.
On Thursday, two rockets narrowly missed the helicopter
carrying the general in charge of the National Disaster
Management Agency and on Friday shots were fired at two
helicopters carrying aid, the military said.
"There is a law and order situation here and other hurdles
but despite everything, we will get to every last person," said
Lt. Gen. Nasir Janjua, the highest ranking military official in
Aid must travel by pitted roads that cut through mountains
held by the insurgents.
The rebels, who have killed many civilians and members of
the security forces, are fighting for independence from
Pakistan. They accuse the central government of stealing the
province's rich mineral deposits and the security forces of
widespread human rights abuses.