GENEVA, 29 October 2008: Aid workers from ACT International have reported 350 dead after the earthquake in the southwestern Pakistan province of Balochistan. A team from an ACT partner has arrived in the two council areas of Kawas and Kach in Ziarat and reported this afternoon that 1,100 houses were seriously damaged nd 1,800 people injured. Most affected villages are so far inaccessible and aid workers have begun activities in villages located close to the main roads.
ACT members are now on way to the area with tents, blankets, food and winter clothing for up to four thousand families. The members have the capacity to provide urgent help to 40,000 people in the area. Norwegian Church Aid and the US-based Church World Service, both members of ACT, are already present in the worst-hit villages.
Gas facilities not hit 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 and Mastung. ACT aid workers report collapsed houses and buildings. The provincial government has imposed a state of emergency in all hospitals in the province.
Ziarat, which is located close to 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 that have not yet been reached. Military helicopters have been flown to the affected areas for rescue and relief operations, but teams have yet to reach remote places in mountains above the Ziarat Valley.
Government relief workers sent to the area President Asif Ali Zardari has directed federal and provincial governments to mobilise their resources to reach out to affected people without delay and provide immediate medical aid and rescue measures for those affected. The National Disaster Management Authority is sending its first dispatch of emergency relief items and is mobilising a search and rescue team. Supplies dispatched to the area include 5,000 tents, 5,000 blankets, 15,000 plastic sheets, winter clothing and emergency food items. 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 head of a national disaster management team in Islamabad has sent 300 rescue workers to Ziarat. The District Coordination Office Ziarat has mobilized Ziarat-based non-governmental organisations 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.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.
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