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Death toll in massive Pakistan quake jumps to 271

By Abdul Sattar

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25 2013 7:45 a.m. MDT

To get a better idea of what the island is made of and how permanent it is, scientists will have to get samples of the material to see if it's mostly soft mud or rocks and harder material. He said these types of islands can remain for a long time or eventually subside back into the ocean, depending on their makeup.

A Pakistani Navy team reached the island by midday Wednesday, navy geologist Mohammed Danish told the country's Geo Television. He said the mass was about 60 feet (18 meters) high, 100 feet (30 meters) long and 250 feet (76 meters) wide.

"There are stones and mud," he said, warning residents not to try to visit the island. "Gasses are still emitting."

But dozens of people had already visited the island, said the deputy commissioner of Gwadar district, Tufail Baloch, who traveled by boat himself to the island Wednesday morning.

Water bubbled along the edges of the island, in what appeared to be gas discharging from under the surface, Baloch said. He said the area smelled of gas that caught fire when people lit cigarettes.

Dead fish floated on the water's surface while local residents were visiting the island and taking stones as souvenirs, he added.

Such land masses have appeared before off Pakistan's Makran coast, said Muhammed Arshad, a hydrographer with the navy. After quakes in 1999 and 2010, new land masses rose up along a different part of the coast about 282 kilometers (175 miles) east of Gwadar, he said.

He said each of those disappeared back into the sea within a year during the monsoon season, a period of heavy rain and wind that sweeps Pakistan every summer. He said that in the area where the island was created on Tuesday, the sea is only about six to seven meters (23 feet) deep.

Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the least populated and most impoverished. Medical facilities are few and far between and often poorly stocked with medicine or qualified personnel. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents spread out over 29,000 square kilometers (11,197 sq. miles).

Many residents are believed to be involved in smuggling fuel from Iran, while others harvest dates.

The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.

Baluchistan and neighboring Iran are prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.

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Sattar reported from Quetta. Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad and Rebecca Santana in Islamabad and Adil Jawad in Karachi contributed to this report.

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