Banaras Khan / AFP - Getty Images
Survivors clear the debris of destroyed houses in Pakistan's earthquake-devastated Arawan district.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Militants fired rockets at a helicopter carrying senior relief aid officials Thursday as the extent of destruction from the strong earthquake in Pakistan became clear.
More than 30 villages and 20,000 homes have been flattened across 15,400 square miles of the remote Balochistan region – an area almost double the size of New Jersey.
The number of confirmed dead has already reached 349, mostly in the Arawan district, according to Balochistan regional government spokesman Jan Mohammad Bulledi.
Tuesday’s magnitude 7.7 quake struck a remote, under-developed area gripped by separatist militants and the region’s lawlessness is hampering army-led relief efforts.
Most of the food and shelter provided to displaced people is being provided by Jamaat ud Dawa - or Party of the Faithful - the fundraising arm of banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiyeba, whose leadership is wanted by the U.S. for sponsoring terror.
Those difficulties were underlined Thursday when rockets were fired at a government helicopter as it passed over Mushke, an area dominated by militants.
The aircraft was carrying the head of the country's National Disaster Management Authority, a Pakistani army general in charge of relief operations and other officials, The Associated Press reported.
The quake was so powerful that it caused an island to emerge off the coast of the port city of Gwadar, in the Arabian Sea.
NBC News' Alastair Jamieson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published September 26 2013, 4:11 AM