An earthquake killed at least 20 people and wounded many more when it struck southwest Pakistan, burying sleeping residents before dawn on Thursday.
Mud houses collapsed, roofs caved in and walls fell. The 5.9-magnitude tremor near a mountainous part of the country jolted many out of their beds. In the early hours of the morning, it damaged scores of buildings and brought crowds out into the streets in the Harnai district of Balochistan province.
People searched for one another in the dark, and others treated a baby’s wounds out in the open under the torch light of mobile phones.
Some lay down on stretchers waiting for ambulances to take them to hospitals. Rescue workers and medics arrived to search for victims and give first aid to those who were stranded, while the country’s leaders ordered emergency relief to the quake zone.
The military also flew troops into Balochistan, the country’s largest yet least populated province, to help with search efforts and determine the scale of the destruction.
Army helicopters airlifted nine people with critical injuries, including children with bandages wrapped around their heads, to the city of Quetta near the Afghan border, where residents also felt the ground shake miles away, the country’s national news agency said.
“Women, children, everyone, was running here and there,” Ghulam Khan, a resident, told the Associated Press, which reported that one of a string of coal mines in the region had collapsed. “We were scared and we didn’t know what to do.”
The head of the province’s Disaster Management Authority, Naseer Ahmed Nasir, told The Washington Post that it had recorded 20 deaths and 300 injuries but that it was still conducting rescue operations. At least six children were among the dead, the charity Save the Children said.
That city was the site of a 1935 earthquake with a 7.7 magnitude in which tens of thousands of people died.
And in a disaster that rattled the country and its environs in 2005, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed more than 70,000 people and left millions homeless near the Himalayan region of Pakistan and disputed Kashmir.
Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.