Pakistan's military Wednesday rushed to reach the scene of a huge earthquake that killed at least 208 people and toppled many mud-built homes when it hit the country's south with enough force to create a new island off the coast.
The 7.7-magnitude quake struck on Tuesday afternoon in Baluchistan province's Awaran district – a dirt-poor expanse of land that is roughly the size of Wales.
"The number of dead from the earthquake has reached 208 now. The injured are over 382," Asad Gilani, one of the province's most senior administration officials, told AFP.
"The rescue teams are working to recover dead bodies and injured, but our priority is to shift injured to hospitals as soon as possible," he said.
Rescue teams found it hard to reach the remote location quickly, and some officials said the death toll was likely to rise as emergency workers fanned further into the mountains to assess the damage.
Mohammad Shabir, a journalist, described scenes of grief and chaos in villages, saying survivors were digging rows of graves and picking through the debris.
“As far as the human eye can see, all the houses here have been flattened,” he told Reuters from Awaran, adding that rescue teams were distributing supplies.
The earthquake struck Pakistan at a time when the country was still mourning the deaths of more than 80 Christians in a suicide bomb attack on an Anglican church in the city of Peshawar on Sunday.
To the south, on the beach near Gwadar port, crowds of bewildered residents gathered to witness the rare phenomenon of an island that the quake thrust up out of the sea.
The island would not survive long because sea waves would eventually break it down, the NDMA spokesman said. “This is not a permanent structure, just a body of mud,” he added. “It will disappear over time.”