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Deadly quake leaves town 'totally destroyed,' witness says; aftershocks rattle Iran, Pakistan

Pakistani earthquake survivors stand on the rubble of their collapsed mud houses in the Mashkel area of southwest Paskitan, Wednesday.
Pakistani earthquake survivors stand on the rubble of their collapsed mud houses in the Mashkel area of southwest Paskitan, Wednesday.Banaras Khan / AFP - Getty Images

QUETTA, Pakistan - Powerful aftershocks rocked the border between Iran and Pakistan Wednesday, a day after a major earthquake tore through the region, collapsing buildings and killing at least 39 people and injuring more than 170.

The Pakistani town of Mashkel was “totally destroyed,” according to a local journalist at the scene. Reporter Farooq Kabdani said almost all of the town's mud houses and shops had collapsed. He suggested the death toll could climb as about 25 people remained missing.

Tuesday’s major quake, rated at magnitude 7.8 by the U.S. Geological Survey and 7.5 by the European-Mediterranean Seismological Agency, was centered about 50 miles east of the city of Khash, Iran, but shook tall buildings as far away as New Delhi, nearly 1,500 miles away.

Fifteen seriously injured victims have evacuated to the Central Military hospital Quetta by the Pakistan Army.The victims range in age from 3 to 50 years old.

It was described by Iranian media as the worst in 50 years, but the majority of confirmed casualties appeared to be on the Pakistan side of the border.

Officials in Mashkel District in Pakistan's Balochistan province said 38 people were killed there, while 170 were injured, including 30 in critical condition.

Iran’s state-run Press TV reported one confirmed Iranian death, noting that initial reports had suggested a much higher death toll. A hospital in the Iranian city of Saravan, which is close to the epicenter, reported 10 fatalities on Tuesday. 

Washuk Khan Mohammad, the local deputy commissioner, said the Mashkel area was hit by two more aftershocks on Wednesday, which he said measured 6.5 and 4.4 on the richter scale, causing more damage.

Conditions in Mashkel, which lies south-west of Quetta, were described as “miserable” by Kabdani. The area is “totally destroyed,” he added.

While the earthquake's epicenter was in a thinly populated area, the USGS estimated that about 400,000 people live in areas where the shaking was very strong to severe; 1.7 million live in areas where it was considered strong; and another 2.6 million are in territories where it was classified as moderate.

The State Department expressed its condolences for the lives lost in the earthquake.

"The United States sends our deepest condolences for those lost in the earthquake in southeastern Iran and western Pakistan today," a statement released Tuesday read. "Our thoughts are with the families of those who were killed, those who were injured, and with those communities that have suffered damage to homes and property. We stand ready to offer assistance in this difficult time."

The Tehran Geophysics Center said the quake lasted 40 seconds and described it as the country's strongest in more than 50 years.

An April 9 earthquake near the country's only nuclear power plant killed 37 people and injured at least 850 more, leaving entire villages devastated.

Despite the scare caused by that quake, Iran pledged that it would continue to build more reactors in the heavily seismic region, which is hundreds of miles from the site of the latest temblor, on the other side of the country's south.

Iran has a history of devastating earthquakes. A magnitude-6.6 quake in 2003 killed an estimated 31,000 people, and a 7.5 in 1990 killed as many as 50,000, according to the USGS.

NBC News' Ali Arouzi contributed to this report.


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