HEAVY casualties are feared after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southwestern Pakistan, sending people running into the streets in panic.

The quake struck at 4:29pm local time (9:30pm) on Tuesday around 100 kilometres southwest of the city of Khuzdar in Baluchistan province, at a depth of 15 kilometres.

The area of the epicentre is sparsely populated, but the USGS issued a red alert for the quake, warning that heavy casualties were likely, based on past data.

Officials said the tremors had demolished dozens of mud houses in Awaran district, 350 kilometres southwest of provincial capital Quetta

Jan Muhammad Baledi, a spokesman for the Baluchistan government said an emergency had been declared in Awaran.

“We have received reports that many homes in Awaran district have been collapsed. We fear many deaths of people,” he said on ARY news channel.

“There are not many doctors in the area but we are trying to provide maximum facilities in the affected areas.”

Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

A senior Pakistani meteorologist, Muhammad Riaz, told Dunya TV station it was a “major” earthquake and “heavy destruction” was likely.

Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi, while office workers in the city of Ahmedabad near the border with Pakistan ran out of buildings and into the street.

Mumtaz Baluch, senior local administration official in Awaran district, said: “There are reports of houses being collapsed in the district due to the earthquake.”

“We also have initial information about injuries to people as a result of the collapse of houses but there are no reports of any deaths.”

“We have dispatched our teams to the affected area to ascertain the losses.”

In April a 7.8-magnitude quake centred in southeast Iran, close to the border with Baluchistan, killed 41 people and affected more than 12,000 on the Pakistan side of the border.

source: http://www.news.com.au