Pakistan

In Balochistan province, Pakistan, quake leaves children vulnerable

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By Roshni Karwal

BALOCHISTAN, Pakistan, 30 October 2008 - The death toll from a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the south-western province of Balochistan, Pakistan, yesterday has risen to at least 215.

The toll is expected to rise even further as bodies are found under the remains of hundreds of mud houses that have been reduced to rubble. More than 15,000 mud-walled and timber homes reportedly have been destroyed.

The quake left between 10,000 and 15,000 people homeless when it struck the remote area early Wednesday morning - and there seems to be no respite from more tragedy.

"There have been many aftershocks following the initial earthquake, and this stops relief teams reaching the affected areas," said UNICEF Chief of External Relations Antonia Paradela in Islamabad.

Relief for the most vulnerable

Some 128 schools were partially damaged in the earthquake, many roads are impassable, health care centres have been destroyed, and food and water supplies are at risk. As always in such emergencies, women and children remain the most vulnerable.

UNICEF has set up four temporary accommodation centres housing thousands of adults and children in affected areas. "Safe drinking water and sanitation, plus emergency supplies for health needs, are really what we are trying to get out there now," said Ms. Paradela.

The onset of the winter represents another hurdle for relief efforts. As temperatures drop, particularly at night, many homeless families are left out in temperatures that are already close to the freezing point.

Balochistan, located near the Afghan border, is the largest province in Pakistan but one of its least populated. A 7.5-magnitude quake in the provincial capital, Quetta, killed an estimated 30,000 people in 1935. More recently, in October 2005, a quake in northern Pakistan killed 70,000 people and left more than 3 million homeless.