A major earthquake has rocked Pakistan’s south west, killing at least 15 and sending panicked people running into the street just days after another quake in the same region killed hundreds.
The US Geological Survey said on its website that a 6.8 magnitude quake was felt in Pakistan’s south-western Baluchistan province.
Pakistan’s Meteorological Department measured the earthquake at 7.2 magnitude, saying its epicentre was about 90 miles west of the town of Khuzdar.
Baluchistan government spokesman Jan Mohammad Buledi said those killed died in the Mushkay area of Awaran. The death toll from Tuesday’s disaster was 359, he added.
Little may have been left to damage after Tuesday’s disaster. Few of the mud and homemade brick houses in the area survived Tuesday’s 7.7 magnitude quake that levelled villages and buried people in the rubble. Since then tens of thousands of people have been sleeping under the open sky or in tents.
Local authorities said they had heard some reports of houses that survived the first quake collapsing from the second.
Chief Pakistani meteorologist Arif Mahmood told Pakistani television that today’s earthquake was an aftershock and such tremors could continue for weeks.
Pakistan television showed people at the main hospital in Awaran district fleeing into the street. In the provincial capital of Quetta, the tremor was so strong it prompted members of the local parliament to evacuate the building.
Baluchistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populated province. The rough terrain and the lack of decent roads have made access difficult for rescue staff. The Pakistani Air Force has been air dropping supplies and using helicopters to ferry injured people for medical care.
But at least two of those helicopters have come under fire from separatist fighters, say Pakistani officials. The Pakistani military has been trying to suppress an uprising in the vast, arid province for years by rebels who want an independent state for the Baluch people.
To the north, Pakistan is dealing with militants who want to overthrow the central government and establish a hard-line Islamic state.
Newly-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to pursue peace talks with the militants as a way to end the fighting. But the militants have given little indication they are interested in negotiations.
They initially rejected talks with the government and later demanded Islamabad release prisoners and begin withdrawing troops from the group’s tribal sanctuary before talks could begin. Recent attacks have also called into question their interest in negotiating.