Is Pakistan quake island just mud?
Type of earthquake that reportedly created an island off Pakistan's coast would not normally be associated with causing land to rise; it's more likely to be a mud volcano, says USGS National Earthquake Information Center. Photo: @NewsweekPakPT2M18S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ucyc 620 349 September 25, 2013
Karachi, Pakistan: A major earthquake hit a remote part of south-west Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 45 people and prompting a new island to reportedly rise from the sea just off the country's southern coast.
The United States Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude quake struck 233 kilometres southeast of Dalbandin in Pakistan's quake-prone province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran.
I thought I am feeling dizziness but soon realised they were tremors
The province in southwest Pakistan is the country's largest but also the least populated.
The earthquake sent workers fleeing into the streets and praying for their lives as buildings swayed, officials said.
The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 metres off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea, local media reported.
Television channels showed images of a stretch of rocky terrain rising above the sea level, with a crowd of bewildered people gathering on the shore to witness the rare phenomenon.
John Bellini, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Centre, said the 7.8-magnitude earthquake was capable of causing widespread damage.
‘‘We have heard some reports of damage as well as casualties, although we would expect the numbers to go higher based on the size and location of the earthquake,’’ he said.
He said the the type of faulting that caused the Pakistan earthquake was an oblique strike thrust - meaning the motion was side to side, rather than up and down.
He said that would not normally result in land being thrust upwards, however there had been reports of islands similar to the one reported off the coast of Pakistan appearing in the past.
‘‘The US Geological Survey hasn’t had any direct observations of the island itself, so we don’t know the specifics, other than what we’ve seen on the internet,’’ he said.
‘‘However historically there have been islands very similar to this that have occurred off the coast of Pakistan and Iran, and much of it seems to be related to mud volcano activity. We don’t know if this one specifically is related to mud volcano activity, but it has occurred off the coast in this region in the past.’’
Officials said scores of mud houses were destroyed by aftershocks in the thinly populated mountainous area near the quake epicenter in Baluchistan, a huge barren province of deserts and rugged mountains.
Abdul Qadoos Bizenjo, deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly, told Reuters that at least 30 per cent of houses in the impoverished Awaran district had caved in.
The local deputy commissioner in Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, and the spokesman of Pakistan's Frontier Corps involved in the rescue effort said at least 45 people had been killed.
In the regional capital of Quetta, officials said some areas appeared to be badly damaged but it was hard to assess the impact quickly because the locations were so remote.
Chief secretary Babar Yaqoob said earlier that 25 people had been injured and that the death toll was expected to increase as many people appeared to be trapped inside their collapsed homes.
Local television reported that helicopters carrying relief supplies had been dispatched to the affected area. The army said it had deployed 200 troops to help deal with the disaster.
The district's deputy commissioner Abdul Rasheed Baloch said rescue teams have been dispatched to the area.
The head of Pakistan's Earthquake Centre, Zahid Rafi, warned of possible aftershocks.
The quake was felt in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, along the Arabian Sea. People in the city's tall office buildings rushed into the streets following the tremor, and Pakistani television showed images of lights swaying as the earth moved.
"I was working on my computer in the office. Suddenly I felt tremors. My table and computer started shaking. I thought I am feeling dizziness but soon realised they were tremors," said one Karachi resident, Mohammad Taimur.
TV footage showed residents in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, coming out of their homes and offices in a panic. One man told Pakistan's Dunya television channel that he was sitting in his office when the building started shaking.
Other residents said people started reciting verses from Islam's holy book, the Koran, when the quake began.
Baluchistan and neighbouring Iran are prone to earthquakes.
A magnitude 7.8, which was centred just across the border in Iran, killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.
In January 2011, a 7.2 magnitude quake damaged 200 mud-brick homes in a remote area of Baluchistan about 320 kilometres southwest of Quetta, not far from the Afghan border but caused no casualties.
AP, Reuters, Fairfax Media