A 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck a remote region in southern Pakistan on Tuesday killed at least 46 people and injured dozens more, officials said.
According to CNN, Asad Gilani, home secretary of Balochistan province, one of the hardest hit areas, said that in addition to those deaths in the town of Awaran, “dozens have been injured." However, an official who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said that he had been told that the number of injured people was closer to between 50 and 100. He added that 75 to 85 percent of homes in the region had been completely or partially wrecked.
“People couldn’t leave their houses,” he told the newspaper. “We fear there could be huge casualties. The population is scattered, and most of the houses are made of mud and bricks, so the damage is extensive.”
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake struck south-central Pakistan at 11:29:48 UTC. Its epicenter was 69 km north of Awaran and 270 km north of Karachi. The agency issued a "red alert" for the event, suggesting that the death toll could exceed 1,000 people and damages could be as high as $1 billion.
Tremors were also felt in Karachi, the largest city in the country, where workers were evacuated from office buildings, Agence Free Presse reported. Zahid Rafi, director of the National Seismic Monitoring Center, said at least three aftershocks followed.
Rafi also confirmed that the strong earthquake had resulted in the appearance of a small island about a mile off the coast of Gwadar, an event he said was “not surprising” given the magnitude of the temblor. However, John Bellini, a geophysicist with the USGS, said that in general, the emergence of an island of that size as a result of such an earthquake was unusual.
Local police official Mozzam Jah told CNN that shortly after the earthquake, residents gathered outside to look at the newly risen island, which is approximately 100 feet in diameter. The Pakistan army said it had already sent 200 troops along with rescue and medical crews into the area to aid in relief efforts, but Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said more than 1,000 troops would eventually be deployed.