Massive Pakistan Earthquake Causes New Island To Rise Off Country's Coast

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The death toll from Wednesday’s massive earthquake in Pakistan’s mountainous Baluchistan region reached a grim 327 as of Wednesday morning, according to the news service Reuters. But the Earth sometimes gives as well as takes away. A brand new island appeared off Pakistan’s coast, created by the giant quake which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale.

The land mass fascinated residents in the coastal town of Gwadar, who said they had seen this before. A major quake in 1968 created an island off the coast that existed for about a year then vanished back into the sea.

"When such a strong earthquake builds pressure, there is the likelihood of such islands emerging," said head of the Geological Survey of Pakistan Zahid Rafi. "That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance."

The new island, seen in the aerial photo at right, is probably the result of a “mud volcano” scientists say.

"Sandy layers underground are shaken, and sand grains jiggle and become more compact," Columbia University seismologist John Armbruster told NBC News. He said the mud then shoots to the ocean surface, but probably doesn’t stay there long.

Back in the 1940s, a major quake near Pakistan’s major city of Karachi created an island "big enough that people could land a boat and walk on it," Armbruster said. "Within days, weeks, it washed away."

Baluchistan’s coast has very loose sands, making it more likely to see spontaneous land formations. But the instant islands arise in other areas on occasion. The coast of New Zealand is also susceptible to island formations, scientists say.

The new island of Gwadar is between 20 and 30 feet high and approximately 100 feet long. It sits about 350 feet off the shoreline.

SOURCES: Associated Press, CBS News, Atlantic Wire, NBC News, Reuters