Pakistan

ACT Alert Pakistan - No. 43/2008: Response to Balochistan Earthquake

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Geneva, 29 October 2008 - ACT members Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Church World Service (CWS) are responding to a powerful earthquake that hit south-western Balochistan Province, Pakistan early on this morning, 29th October 2008. The US Geological Survey reported on its website that an earthquake of magnitude 6.4 struck the area 60 km north-east of Quetta, at 5:10 am. People fled their houses in panic as the shocks hit Balochistan just before sunrise.

Balochistan, which is Pakistan's largest but most thinly populated province, has the country's largest reserves of natural gas. There are no reports of damage to gas facilities. The areas hit by the earthquake are Pishin, Ziarat, Qila Abdullah, Chaman, Loralai, Sibbi, Mastung. Many houses and buildings have collapsed. The provincial Government has imposed a state of emergency in all hospitals in the province.

Ziarat, which is located around 50 km from Quetta with a population of about 50,000, is the most severely affected district. Eight villages, in the hilly Ziarat district, have been badly affected and there are still many areas which have not yet been reached. Many houses have been destroyed and roads blocked in landslides triggered by the quake. The number of deaths being reported is likely to rise as many people trapped under the rubble. Officials and hospital staff have also reported large numbers of injured.

National and international response: Most relief workers have so far been able to reach only those villages that are located close to main roads while many remote areas remain inaccessible. Provincial government officials and staff of the international and national NGOs are still assessing the extent of the destruction by the earthquake.

President Asif Ali Zardari has directed Federal and Provincial Governments to mobilize their resources to reach out to affected people without delay and provide immediate medical aid and rescue measures for the affected people. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is sending its first dispatch of emergency relief items and is mobilizing a search and rescue team. 5,000 tents, 5,000 blankets, 15,000 plastic sheets, winter clothing, emergency food items have been dispatched. A 100-bed field hospital is being deployed in Quetta, to possibly be located in Ziarat. Another field hospital is on standby in Rawalpindi and will be deployed if needed. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has further requested for 2,000 tents, 5,000 blankets, food covering 20,000 affected people and 4 New Emergency Health Kits. One health kit is enough to serve a population of 10,000 for 3 months.

The head of a National Disaster Management Team in Islamabad has sent 300 rescue workers to Ziarat. The District Coordination Office (DCO) Ziarat has mobilized Ziarat-based NGOs and presently they are involved in initial rescue efforts and damage assessment.

Pakistan's military has sent teams to the area to assess the damage and to help with relief and rescue operations along with medical teams. Two army helicopters have been sent to affected villages for rescue operations and to set up a field hospital, while tents, blankets and clothing are also being flown in.

UNICEF is working with the government and other UN agencies to coordinate a response. It is also part of the joint UN rapid assessment mission to assess damage to the worst affected districts.

ACT International response: NCA and CWS are responding jointly to this emergency and are currently coordinating together to collect assessment data from different areas and to mobilize assistance. Their local partner organizations.

CWS- Pakistan/Afghanistan's local partner, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO), has reported that two union council areas (Kawas and Kach) of Ziarat have been badly affected. As at 4:30 pm on 29 October, they report 350 people as killed, 1,100 houses seriously damaged and many more houses slightly damaged. 1,800 people have been injured.

NCA's local partner organization, Taraqee Foundation, is based in Quetta and has regional offices in many districts of Balochistan. A team from the Taraqee Foundation has also visited Ziarat. Based on their initial emergency assessment the following immediate needs have been identified: Tents for 3,000 - 4,000 families, blankets for 2,500 families, winter clothing for 2,500 - 3,000 families and Food and Non-Food Items for 3,000-4,000 families. Information from other areas is also being collected by CWS and NCA partners. Medium to long term needs will include reconstruction and rehabilitation of housing, water supply schemes and sanitation facilities.

The ACT Coordinating Office expects to receive a request for Rapid Response Funding tomorrow.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (jkg@act-intl.org).

Thank you for your attention.

For further information please contact:

ACT Director, John Nduna (phone +41 22 791 6033 or mobile phone + 41 79 203 6055) or

ACT Program Officer, Michelle Yonetani (phone +41 22 791 6035 or mobile phone +41 79 285 2916)

ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org

ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.