A Devastating Earthquake

A strong earthquake in Pakistan leaves a path of destruction, and also a new island

Sep 25, 2013 | By Cameron Keady with AP reporting
NASEER AHMED—REUTERS

A survivor of Tuesday's hurricane walks past a collapsed home in Awaran, Pakistan.

A magnitude 7.7 earthquake rocked Pakistan’s Awaran District on Tuesday afternoon. The quake created widespread damage and killed at least 356 people. Sadly, officials predict that number will rise. The hard-hit district is made up of mostly mud and handmade brick houses that quickly collapsed with the Earth’s tremors. Much of the remote region has been reduced to rubble. But along with destruction came creation. After the quake, a small landmass of mud appeared off the coast of Pakistan.


 
Members of Pakistan's military load relief supplies onto a truck headed to help stranded survivors.
RIZWAN TABASSUM—AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Members of Pakistan's military load relief supplies onto a truck headed to help stranded survivors.

Struggling to Recover

The Awaran District, located in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, is in the southwestern region of the country. It is Pakistan’s largest province, but also its poorest and least populated. Rescue efforts have been difficult because of its remote location. A lack of medical facilities has left many survivors without access to necessary treatment and medication.  

The Pakistani military has sent almost 1,000 troops to help with rescue and repair. Army trucks carrying supplies, doctors, and tents for victims to use as shelter are slowly making their way to the hardest hit areas. “It’s a totally mountainous area,” says Jam Kamal Khan, a local government official. “There are very few roads, and some areas are not accessible by road.”

Earthquake Island

Baluchistan’s mountainous landscape makes it a prime location for earthquakes. Three tectonic plates come together there. Tectonic plates are the pieces that make up Earth’s crust. They are slowly but constantly shifting. Earthquakes occur when these plates bump, slip, and slide. The tremors from this quake were so intense they were felt across the border in New Delhi, India.

After the earthquake, an island emerged from the Indian Sea off of Pakistan's southwestern coast.
REUTERS
After the earthquake, an island emerged from the Indian Sea off of Pakistan's southwestern coast.

The force of Tuesday’s earthquake created an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea. Extreme tectonic activity can cause mud from under the sea to rise to the surface. Combined with natural gases, the mud can gather and collect to form a landmass. “When such a strong earthquake builds pressure, there is the likelihood of such islands emerging,” says Zahid Rafi, the head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan. “That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance.”

According to Pakistani oceanographers, the small new island is about 60 feet high, 100 feet long and 250 feet wide. It sits in an area of the sea that is only about 23 feet deep. Officials are not yet sure whether the island will dissolve over time, or if it is a permanent addition to the Arabic Sea. Scientists will study the mud it is made of to try to predict if it will stay put or eventually sink back into the ocean.