HC Deb 03 June 1935 vol 302 cc1532-4

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can give the House the latest information regarding the situation in Quetta, following upon the earthquake disaster?


Perhaps the House will allow me, in the first place, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman.

I deeply regret to say that the reports I have received of this appalling disaster unfortunately fully bear out what has appeared in the public Press. I am grieved to state that the whole city of Quetta has been destroyed. All houses in the civil area have been razed to the ground except Government House which is partially standing in ruins. One quarter of the cantonment area is destroyed, the remaining three-quarters are slightly damaged, but inhabitable. Most damage has occurred in the Royal Air Force area where the barracks have been destroyed and only six out of 27 machines remain serviceable. The railway area has been destroyed but the Staff College area is undamaged.

The bodies of about 4,500 members of the Indian civil population have been recovered. It is feared that about 20,000 still remain buried in the debris. Kalat and Mastung and all the villages between Quetta and Kalat are reported to have been destroyed, but Loralai and Chaman and apparently Fort Sandeman escaped.

The total of Indian casualties outside the city of Quetta is at present unknown. The total of British deaths is about 200. The situation is well in hand but as nearly all the subordinate police officers have been killed it has been necessary to ask for military assistance. The Western Command have assumed control of the situation and are rationing the population. Arrangements are being made to send food and collect casualties in. the neighbouring villages. Special police are being sent by the Government of the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province. Evacuation is proceeding and will continue so long as there is no outbreak of epidemic against which all possible precautions are being taken by the medical authorities. Patients are being treated in the Indian Military and Cantonment Hospital where between four and five thousand had been received up to Sunday evening. Refugee camps have been established on the racecourse. Supplies and personnel are being despatched by train and airplane from Karachi and Lahore and the Viceroy has lent his airplane for this purpose.

Communications by rail and road are reported to be intact. The civil land telegraphic line has been restored and an accumulation of private telegrams from Quetta is being dealt with as rapidly as circumstances allow. In order to deal effectively with the situation, the General Officer Commanding has been authorised to declare martial law in the city and cantonment at his discretion.

His Excellency the Viceroy has inaugurated a Quetta Earthquake Relief Fund, and has issued an appeal in India to which I am sure there will be a prompt and sympathetic response.

I have no doubt that I am speaking for all sections of this House, and for the country as a whole, when I say that our deep sympathy goes out to all those who have suffered in this terrible calamity, the news of which has so profoundly shocked us all.


I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kindly reference to myself. May I ask him,, in reference to this disaster which we all deplore so much, whether he will make it plain, as reports to the contrary have been cir culated, that there is no intention of abandoning the search for living persons in the ruins of Quetta.


Certainly, I will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said.