Death toll tops 500 after Pakistan quake; area twice size of New Jersey flattened

The death toll from an earthquake that
devastated an impoverished region of
Pakistan has climbed past 500, a
provincial official said Friday.
Babar Yaqoob, chief secretary of
Balochistan, told Reuters 515 people
have now been confirmed dead
following the 7.7-magnitude temblor
which struck the remote area on
Tuesday.
More than 30 villages, containing some
20,000 homes, were flattened across
15,400 square miles of the remote
Balochistan region -- an area almost
double the size of New Jersey.
Dozens of bodies are being recovered
every day from mud homes whose
walls and beams have been reduced to
dust and rubble.
"My daughter was killed when my
house collapsed -- I was also inside my
house but manage to run out," 70-
year-old Gul January said. "We are
sitting under the scorching sun and
need shelter."
The rescue effort was made more
difficult Thursday after militants fired
rockets at three army helicopters
delivering aid.
The Associated Press reported one of
the choppers was carrying the head of
the country's National Disaster
Management Authority, Major General
Alam Saeed.
Frontier Corps spokesman Khan
Wasey told Pakistani newspaper Dawn
that “small arms” were used in the
attack. The newspaper reported it was
the second assault in as many days.
"There is a law and order situation
here and other hurdles but despite
everything, we will get to every last
person," Lt. Gen. Nasir Janjua, the
highest ranking military official in the
province, told Reuters.
In addition to the destruction caused
to houses, communications have been
badly disrupted and rescue workers
are finding it difficult to get to bodies,
Dawn reported. It said Balochistan,
which accounts for roughly 44 percent
of Pakistan's land mass but only 5
percent of its population, was the most
impoverished Pakistani province.
The newspaper added that although
teams were working to recover bodies,
their priority was to take the injured to
hospitals.
Meanwhile, people living on the coastal
region of Gwadar saw a new island
created in the aftermath of the quake.
The locals said this was the second
occurrence of its kind, following a
similar island springing up after a
quake in 1968 which later sunk back
into the water.
Seismologists said the island was
probably the result of a "mud
volcano," caused by a jet of water and
sediment from the ocean floor.