20 killed, over 300 injured in earthquake in SW Pakistan

Local residents gather outside their houses following a severe earthquake is felt the area, in Quetta, Pakistan, Pakistan. (ARSHAD BUTT / AP)

QUETTA / ISLAMABAD – At least 20 people died and over 300 others were injured after an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude hit Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province early Thursday morning, provincial Home Minister Mir Ziaullah Langove said.

The minister told the media that a state of emergency has been declared in all districts of the province affected by the earthquake to assist rescue efforts and health services.

The minister added that helicopters are being sent to the affected areas to shift the seriously injured to other cities, including the provincial capital of Quetta.

The earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 struck in the early hours of Thursday while people were sleeping. Rescue workers said the dead were mostly women and children.

The quake was relatively shallow at 20 kms with an epicentre 102 km east of Quetta, said the US Geological Survey (USGS).

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Disaster Management Authority Director General Naseer Nasir on Thursday said told the media that casualties were reported from the Harnai district of the province where several houses collapsed after the jolts.

Rescue teams have rushed to different affected areas and have started rescue work, said the official.

This AFP graphic shows a map locating a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Pakistan.

He added that casualties might further rise as several people have been buried under the debris of the collapsed houses.

More than 100 mud houses collapsed and a large number were damaged, including government buildings. Hundreds of people were rendered homeless, Sohail Anwar, deputy commissioner in the city of Harnai, told Reuters.

Social media showed houses shaking and light fittings swaying as the quake struck, and later stunned residents gathering in the street in the dark.

The injured were rushed to hospital, while some were treated on stretchers in the street under phone torch light.

A 7.7-magnitude earthquake hit Quetta in 1935, killing between 30,000 and 60,000 people, making it one of the deadliest quakes to hit South Asia in recorded history.

A family gather outside their house following a severe earthquake hit the area, in Quetta, Pakistan. (ARSHAD BUTT / AP)