Zahid Hussain, Karachi and Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Updated: October 26, 2015 09:56 PM GMT
Pakistani residents gather next to the rubble of a damaged house following an earthquake in Bajaur, near the Afghanistan border, on Oct. 26. (Photo by Anwarullah Khan/AFP)
Church groups in Pakistan are preparing to offer aid to areas stricken by a massive 7.5-magnitude earthquake, with fatalities in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the quake was centered, expected to rise.
In Pakistan, at least 230 people were killed and more than 1,500 were injured after the earthquake struck on Oct. 26. The disaster, which was centered in northern Afghanistan, killed more than 300 people in both countries as of Oct. 27.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi expressed his concern for the affected families and said that the church's social action arm would step in with support.
"I have encouraged the Caritas team to play a significant role in helping the victims," he said.
Two emergency teams from Caritas Pakistan have left to begin initial assessments in quake-hit areas, including Peshawar and Islamabad.
"We are reviewing what we can do to aid the affected with respect to resources and capacity," said Amjad Gulzar, Caritas Pakistan's executive director. "Our findings will help in making the response. A base camp may be established in earthquake-affected areas to coordinate and update information on a daily basis."
The country's worst-hit province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan, saw 185 deaths, according to Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority.
Arbab Waqas, an official with the provincial arm of the disaster agency, told ucanews.com that the death toll will likely rise, as some areas had been hit by landslides and were still inaccessible to rescue teams.
"We have reports of deaths in some inaccessible areas of Shangla and Swat districts, but there is no official confirmation yet," he said. "We have set up emergency control rooms in every district to carry out relief efforts."
The initial earthquake was followed by at least eight aftershocks, forcing thousands of terrified people to sleep outdoors in chilly weather conditions.
It caused damage to both Catholic churches in Peshawar, which is the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
"The main dome of our church has developed cracks," Father Younas Riaz, parish priest at St. Michael's Catholic Church, told ucanews.com.
Father Arshad Naeer, parish priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Kohat, south of Peshawar, said he was in his parish house when the first tremor hit.
"The whole room was jolting. I slowly walked out as my head started spinning," he said. The water tank on top of the building kept spilling water for more than three minutes, he added.
People in parts of northern India also reported feeling tremors. In New Delhi, the Indian capital, Caritas India was in the middle of a week dedicated to disaster preparedness and awareness.
The quake forced people in its New Delhi headquarters to take cover, according to a message on the group's Facebook page.
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