Pakistan earthquake island belching poisonous gas

Published September 26, 2013

| FoxNews.com

It’s only a day old, but it already has gas.

A new island that popped up off the coast of Pakistan Wednesday following a deadly, 7.7-magnitude quake on Tuesday has been belching poisonous gas and killing fish, the BBC reported.

"There were dead fish on the surface. And on one side we could hear the hissing sound of the escaping gas," local journalist Bahram Baloch said, according to the news site. Baloch and some friends said they couldn’t smell the gas, but did manage to set it on fire by lighting a match near fissures from which it was oozing.

"We put the fire out in the end, but it was quite a hassle. Not even the water could kill it, unless one poured buckets over it," Baloch said.

The island, made up of hardened mud and rocks, is up to 300 feet high and rises some 60 or 70 feet out of the water. It was created by the pressure of Tuesday's earthquake, seismologist John Armbruster told NBC News, which led to the formation of a "mud volcano" that blasted a slurry of rock and sand out of the earth and through the water.

Such mud formations are a known occurrence following strong earthquakes of magnitude of seven or eight, Armbruster said.

Similar activity led to the gas emissions, Rashid Tabrez, the director-general of the Karachi-based National Institute of Oceanography, told the BBC. He said the energy released by the seismic movements of fault lines activated flammable gases in the seabed.

"The seabed near the Makran coast has vast deposits of gas hydrates, or frozen gas having a large methane content," he explained. They sit under sediment up to half a mile thick.

"When the plates along the fault lines move, they create heat and the expanding gas blasts through the fissures in the earth's crust, propelling the entire sea floor to the surface."

The astounding sight quickly drew local who hopped boats to explore the island. Television channels showed images of the rocky terrain rising above the sea level, as well as a crowd of bewildered people gathering on the shore to witness the rare phenomenon.

The quake proved deadly on land. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck Tuesday afternoon at a depth of 13 miles, the US Geological Survey said. It left over 200 dead and well over 350 injured.

Television footage showed collapsed houses, caved-in roofs and people sitting in the open air outside their homes, the rubble of mud and bricks scattered around them.

Baluchistan, Pakistan's largest but least populous province, is believed to have substantial gas and oil reserves, but it is violent and unstable.

News wires contributed to this report.

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