QUETTA, Pakistan – Rescuers struggled Wednesday to help thousands of people injured and left homeless after their houses collapsed in a massive earthquake in southwestern Pakistan, as the death toll rose overnight to 210, officials said.
The magnitude 7.7 quake struck in the remote district of Awaran in Pakistan's Baluchistan province on Tuesday afternoon. Such a quake is considered major, capable of widespread and heavy damage.
The quake was felt as far away as New Delhi, the Indian capital, some about 740 miles away, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported there.
A provincial official, Additional Home Secretary of Baluchistan Zahid bin Maqsood, put the death toll at 210 and said 375 people had been injured, while a spokesman for the provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, put the death toll at 216 -- conflicting figures likely due to the difficulty in contacting local officials and people in the remote region.
In Pakistani cities such as Karachi along the Arabian Sea and Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, people ran into the streets in fear, praying for their lives when the quake hit.
The Pakistani military said it was rushing troops and helicopters to Awaran district and the nearby area of Khuzdar. Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep as strong aftershocks continued to shake the region.
Most of the victims were killed when their houses collapsed. Pakistani television showed pictures of the area. Walls of the mud brick houses had collapsed, and people were gathered outside because they had no homes to sleep in.
Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents.
Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates.
The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.
Baluchistan and neighboring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.