A massive, 7.7 magnitude quake struck south-central Pakistan on Tuesday afternoon local time. The USGS warns that there will high casualties and economic losses, requiring international response. Seismologists have also confirmed that the quake raised a new island, about 30-40 feet high, off the coast.
The island is about half a mile off the coast of Gwadar, in the Arabian Sea. Already, reports the International Herald Tribune, crowds have gathered to see the mountainous, rocky island. Some are claiming it is 100 feet long. [UPDATE: Geologists have confirmed the island was created by a mud volcano triggered by the earthquake.]
Image via @Senator_Baloch
It's not unusual for earthquakes of this magnitude to change the coastline, or even deform the shape of the planet. In 2010, an 8.8 magnitude quake in Chile created new coastlines in that country and changed the shape of the Earth enough to shorten our days by a fraction of a second.
Today in Pakistan, estimates of damages are still coming in, and it may be days before we know the full extent of the losses because the quake struck in many regions that are remote.
The nearest city to the epicenter is Arawan, where damage is said to be extensive, with houses collapsing and people trapped inside. So far, death tolls hover around 40, but that number is expected to rise as emergency services reach more of the affected areas. The populations near the epicenter may be sparse, but according to the USGS, the problem is that they are extremely vulnerable. Most homes are made of materials like unreinforced brick masonry, which crumble quickly in quakes and can be deadly.
Many of the casualties were from Labach, on the northern outskirts of Awaran town. There are reports of some people trapped under the rubble of collapsed houses.
Abdul Qadoos, deputy speaker of the Balochistan assembly, told Reuters news agency that at least 30% of houses in Awaran district had collapsed.
Karachi is another nearby city, with millions of residents, whose homes may have also been affected. People as far away as New Delhi report feeling the quake.
The USGS also offers a quick scientific summary of the nature of the quake:
The September 24, 2013 M7.7 earthquake in south-central Pakistan occurred as the result of oblique-strike-slip type motion at shallow crustal depths. The location and mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with rupture within the Eurasia plate above the Makran subduction zone. The event occurred within the transition zone between northward subduction of the Arabia plate beneath the Eurasia plate and northward collision of the India plate with the Eurasia plate. The epicenter of the event is 69km north of Awaran, Pakistan, and 270km north of Karachi, Pakistan (population 11.6 million).
Right now, as emergency groups gather more information, the best thing we can do is wait to find out more. But it's very likely that humanitarian aid will be needed, and as soon as we know more we'll offer an update.
You can get quick details on the quake on the USGS page.