By: Celia Carr- The Brock Press
A strong earthquake that struck the remote area of Awaran, in south-west Pakistan On Tuesday, September 24, has left at least 328 people destroying entire villages in its wake.
Rescue teams were initially focused on the areas of the Khuzdar and Awaran districts where there were the most fatalities due to hundreds of collapsed mud-homes. Local hospitals are running out of food and medicine as doctors and rescue teams are struggling to reach survivors. The number of fatalities is likely to rise as teams continue searching.
Measuring at 7.7 on the Richter scale, the earthquake created a new island roughly five kilometres off the southern coast of Pakistan in the Arabian Sea.
Andrew Miall, a geology professor at the University of Toronto says that although it is not a common way for an island to occur, that vertical movement of the Earth’s crust is very common and that the crust in this area was close enough to the surface of the water that is was pushed high enough to succeed the ocean’s surface.
Muhammed Arshad, a hydrographer with the Pakistan navy, estimates that the sea in that area is only about six to seven metres deep.
Arshad explained to sources that even though it is a rare occurrence, this is not the first time an island has been created around Pakistan. He gave examples of small islands being created off a different coast of Pakistan after Earthquakes in 1999 and more recently in 2010. These islands were both swept back into the sea during Pakistan’s monsoon season. Geologists say that when islands are created suddenly like this, it is most likely that the sea will swallow the mass of rock as quickly as it were created due to its instability .
A geologist at Queen’s University sees that this is the likely fate for this new island as well.
John Dixon, professor at Queen’s, believes the island is most likely made of soft mud as opposed to solid rock. “Because of this, it is likely that the island will be very temporary — it will probably be washed back into the sea by erosion due to wave action fairly quickly. In fact, one can see from the photo that this is already starting” he says. Scientists in Pakistan are currently trying to get as many samples of the rock as possible to try and determine whether or not the island will return into the sea or remain above sea level.
Local residents have been visiting the new island, taking rocks as souvenirs, but Pakistani authorities are telling people to stay away from it because of the methane gas that is leaking out of the rock. A spark from a cigarette would be enough to set the island ablaze.