Humanitarian Nightmare Spreads in Wake of Pakistan Earthquake

As toll of dead and injured rises, survivors face shortage of water, shelter, medical supplies

The death toll from this week's earthquake in southwestern Pakistan continues to climb, with authorities announcing Thursday 356 confirmed dead and over 600 injured. Those grim statistics are expected to rise as countless people remain trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished Baluchistan province Tuesday has destroyed an estimated 21,000 houses, trapping an unknown number of people and forcing thousands of survivors to sleep without the protection of shelter.

In addition, survivors face soaring temperatures and a shortage of drinking water in a region in the grips of a drought.

In the Balochistan district that comprises 40 percent of Pakistan's land mass, with a population of 9 million people, the disaster is exacerbated by high levels of poverty and an insufficient medical infrastructure. Doctors report shortages of medical equipment, medicines, and ambulances amid the flood of patients needing help.

In the town of Arawan, approximately 100 people protested at the district office, demanding more help for survivors. "The people who survived the earthquake are dying now because they have no food or water," said protester Abdul Latif, the Washington Postreports.

The government has deployed more than 1,000 troops to the region. The military reported Thursday that a helicopter transporting the National Disaster Management Authority to the site of the disaster was fired at by two rockets, with the military claiming militants fighting for a separate state in Balochistan were responsible. None were reported injured.

The massive earthquake was so strong it appears to have created a new island off the coast of Pakistan.


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