Rockets fired at relief helicopter as thousands wait for govt aid
27 September, 2013
ARAWAN: Militants fired rockets at a helicopter carrying the head of the National Disaster Management Agency in the quake-hit Balochistan on Thursday, military officials said, but no damage was done.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of survivors of the earthquake waited for help in soaring temperatures, as the death toll rose past 400 and anger grew at the slow pace of government aid. The helicopter with Major General Muhammad Saeed Aleem, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, on board was flying over Awaran district in Balochistan, the area worst hit by Tuesday's 7.7-magnitude quake. "Two rockets were fired on the helicopter and the target was missed," a military official in the provincial capital Quetta told AFP. "The area is rife with insurgency and has presence of Balochistan Liberation Front insurgents."
Another military official confirmed the attack and said everyone in the helicopter was safe. The incident occurred near Mashkai, a town of the quake-hit Awaran district. The NDMA chief was flying with senior army officials to witness damages in the area. Rebel leader Allah Nazar Baloch's group had earlier attacked a team of doctors and relief workers with rockets in the same area. The 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon and was felt across the country, even causing a small island to rise from the Arabian Sea. The greatest damage occurred in Awaran.
More than 100,000 people made homeless by Tuesday's 7.7-magnitude quake spent a second night in the open or under makeshift shelters as response teams struggled to reach the remote region. "At least 355 people died and 619 others injured," the National Disaster Management Authority said in Islamabad. It said 311 people died in Awaran district, where the quake struck, and 44 were killed in neighbouring Kech district. The sheer scale of the territory involved is daunting – the population of Awaran is scattered over more than 21,000 square kilometres – and infrastructure is extremely limited, with few medical facilities or even roads.
On top of the remote and rugged terrain, the area is also home to Baloch separatist rebels waging a decade-long insurgency. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told parliament "huge activity" was under way to help those affected but he admitted teams were struggling to reach some areas, even 40 hours after the quake. The army has sent troops, medical staff and helicopters to help with rescue efforts, along with seven tonnes of food and a tonne of medicine. In Arawan town, around 200 angry survivors demonstrated outside government offices complaining they had not been given food or shelter.
"We have not received anything from the government. We have not got any relief, there is no supply of foods or medicine," furious villager Abdul Latif, 25, told AFP.