ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A powerful earthquake killed at least 39 people when it struck a remote area of western Pakistan on Tuesday afternoon, according to Pakistani government officials who have warned that the death toll will probably increase.
The authorities declared a state of emergency in southwestern Baluchistan province, where the earthquake struck. It had a magnitude of 7.7, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Initial rescue efforts were focused on Khuzdar and Awaran districts in the west of the province, where most of the fatalities were thought to have occurred after hundreds of mud-walled homes collapsed.
A Pakistani military spokesman said the army had deployed 200 soldiers for rescue and relief efforts. The logistics will probably be challenging: Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the most sparsely populated, with sprawling deserts and little infrastructure.
The earthquake was felt across Pakistan when it struck at 4:29 p.m. local time. Residents rushed into the streets as tall buildings swayed in Karachi, the country's most densely populated city.
While the earthquake resulted in loss of lives and property, it also gave rise to an usual geographical occurrence. A small, rocky island was apparently created half a mile into the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gwadar, the port Pakistan has built with the help of China, local news media reported.
Moazam Jah, a senior police officer in Gwadar, told Geo TV, a private news network, that the island appeared to be 100 feet wide and 40 feet in altitude. It surprised people in the coastal town, and a large number of people gathered at the coastline to witness the spectacle. Locals were reported as saying that a similar island was pushed up around 60 years ago but over time sank back into the waters.
Baluchistan province is frequently hit by earthquakes, and wracked by drought and flooding, but many of its deepest challenges are manmade. The Pakistani military and intelligence services have worked to crush a nationalist insurgency there for years, much of the Afghan Taliban leadership shelters there and the province's large Shiite minority has frequently faced lethal attacks by sectarian militant groups.