Pakistan quake victims clamour for aid

MASHKAIL, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistani earthquake victims staged protests on Friday, demanding the government do more to provide emergency relief as they prepared to spend a fourth night sleeping out in the open.

Tuesday's 7.8-magnitude quake, centred in southeastern Iran, killed 41 people - all but one of whom were in Pakistan, where thousands more have been affected.

One of the worst-hit areas is Mashkail, a remote community in Pakistan's southwestern province Baluchistan, where the lack of paved roads, phone coverage and medical facilities have hampered the rescue effort.

Local residents held two protests on Friday outside government offices in Mashkail, demanding shelter and the restoration of electricity after poles in some areas were destroyed by the earthquake.

"What we need urgently is shelter. How long we can stay under open sky?" said Suhbat Khan, 48, a petrol importer.

Families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed are camping out under date trees without tents or plastic sheets, although food and water is available in shops that remain open, coming from across the border with Iran.

"If this earthquake had struck some other area, all the government machinery would have gone. Here only two government officials came but delivered nothing," Mohammd Khalil, a driver, said.

"If they cannot do it, they should allow Iran to help us," he added.

Estimates of the number of people affected have risen steadily.

On Friday, local Mashkail administration official Syed Mureed Shah put the figure at more than 35,000 out of nearly 40,000 people scattered throughout the wider district of Washuk.

Thousands of homes are believed to have been damaged.

"We do not have enough relief goods," Shah added.

"Trucks carrying relief items are stranded because access to area is blocked and we have sent men and machinery to clear (the road).

"We have got only 300 tents but cannot distribute them because they are not enough and people not getting tents will create problem and unrest," he added.

Baluchistan, which also borders Afghanistan, is plagued by Islamist militancy, attacks on the Shiite Muslim minority and a separatist Baluch insurgency.