Pakistan

Pakistan set to start assessment of quake damages

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Islamabad_(dpa) _ Authorities on Sunday prepared to begin a survey in Pakistan's south-west to calculate damage from this week's earthquake that left thousands homeless ahead of a harsh winter.

The quake, registering 6.4 on the Richter scale, shook the northern and central parts of impoverished Balochistan province early Wednesday, killing at least 250 people and injuring hundreds.

The survey being launched Monday with the involvement of the military was expected to be completed within two weeks, said Brigadier Mubashir Wasim, in charge of relief operations in the region.

Aid agencies estimate up to 108,000 people, half of them children, have been affected by the quake, which caused most damage in the Ziarat and Pishin districts.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said that, according to assessments carried out by the UN officials and the Pakistani government, the affected persons included 19,000 children under the age of five - a figure likely to rise.

Mild intensity aftershocks have continued hitting Zairat and Pishin, with the local meteorological department recording more than 830 of these since Wednesday's quake, the private Geo news channel reported.

The after-jolts have forced the people to stay outdoors under the open skies with temperatures plunging below freezing during the night.

International aid has started to reach remote villages where clusters of mud-brick houses were demolished. Some agencies are making emergency appeals for funds to help the victims.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) earlier this week launched a preliminary appeal for some eight million dollars to step us its emergency assistance operations.

"Our priority will be to provide shelter as winter sets in. Because of continuing aftershocks, many people decided to sleep outdoors, at altitudes of 2,000 to 2,500 metres," Pascal Cuttat, the ICRC's head of delegation in Islamabad was quoted a saying.

Amid extensive relief efforts, quake survivors are also staging protest demonstrations, complaining about short supply of relief items and demanding more winterized tents and blankets.

Balochistan sits on a major fault line and its capital Quetta was devastated in a magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck in 1935. dpa yam sc

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