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By Barry Newhouse
30 October 2008
Rescue efforts continue in southwest Pakistan, where the official death toll from Wednesday's magnitude 6.4 earthquake reached 215. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad that providing shelter for homeless families is now a top priority.
Rescue workers are still trying to determine the extent of the damage in the rugged, mountainous area of Baluchistan Province, but say it appears as many as 5,000 homes were either collapsed or severely damaged by the tremor.
Non-government organizations say the actual death toll is probably around 400, but the official tally is lower because remote villages and quick burials make counting difficult.
Military spokesman General Salim Nawaz says rescue efforts are going smoothly and most of the dead have been buried. He says there are no reports Thursday of locating survivors buried under wreckage.
|Pakistani people warm themselves next to their tents after an earthquake in Ziarat, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Quetta, Pakistan, 30 Oct 2008|
Baluchistan's governor, Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi, told reporters that the main focus now is taking care of survivors. He says it is really cold here and we need blankets, clothes and tents. He says it will take time to rebuild destroyed homes.
Residents in the area build their own houses using mud, wood and grass. They say cold weather makes construction nearly impossible during the winter and they will have to wait until March to rebuild.
For now, aid organizations and Pakistan's military say they have provided about 4,000 winterized tents for families, but some have yet to reach remote areas.
Hassan Moazam is the country director for the international aid group Care. He says he visited a village called Wom near the epicenter.
"That place is very remote and very cold. I was there during the evening time and at night the temperature goes sub-zero," he said. "Especially the women and young children, they were all sitting under open skies, so it is quite a challenge for these families to survive under open skies without any shelter."
Moazam says the scope of the damage is much less than the devastating 2005 earthquake in northeast Pakistan that killed about 80,000 people. But he says non-government aid groups are still assessing the extent of the damage and will issue a report on Friday.