Pakistan was rocked by two earthquakes last month, the first measured 7.7 on the Richter scale and the second a 6.8. This devastating natural disasters were the cause of over 500 untimely deaths and destroyed thousands of homes.
The quakes hit a particularly impoverished area of the country and affected six different districts, Awaran, Kech, Gwadar, Panjgur, Chaghi and Khuzdar in the province of Baluchistan.
Many of the houses were devastated as they were built with simple materials such as tin and mud. About half an hour after the first quake a local fisherman described seeing something strange rise out of the water, we now know today that it is in fact an island that is essentially mud propelled up from the sea bed.
Geologist Bill Barnhart, from the United States Geological Survey, describes what it needed to create an island of this nature, “You need a shallow, buried layer of pressurised gas—methane, carbon dioxide, or something else—and fluids.” He continues, ‘When that layer becomes disturbed by seismic waves, the gases and fluids become buoyant and rush to the surface, bringing the rock and mud with them.’
The mud island, now name Zalzala Koh, is approximately 160 meters in length and rises about 20 meters above the water surface. It is covered by dead sea life that burst out from underneath the sea.
Additionally, the mud volcano is still releasing toxic and flammable gas, but that is not stopping the visitors from flocking.
The plates that are responsible for the earthquakes and ultimately the mud island is also the reason for a number of other mud volcanoes in the sea. The boundary between the Eurasian plate and the Arabian plate faces a lot of friction and subsequently causes the natural disasters that the region faces.
This is not the first island to emerge from the sea in the region. After two separate earthquakes in 1945 and 2001, similar, temporary, landforms rose from out of the water.
The estimated life time for Zalzala Koh is one year. Scientists predict that with the tides from the Arabian Sea will likely wash away the mud and sand gradually lowering the height of the island.
Similarly, when the gas pocked from beneath the mud volcano cools, it is highly likely that the crust of the structure will collapse sinking back into the sea.