The Science of the Pakistan Earthquake

There was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake centered in Pakistan on October 8th, 2005 at 8:50am Pakistan time (that's 10:50pm on Friday in Minnesota). The earthquake devastated the region, leaving many villages destroyed and killing thousands in Pakistan and India. It is one of the strongest earthquakes to hit this area in living memory. Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf described the disaster as the country's "worst-ever."

A clash of titans

The earth's continents rest upon large plates of rock that are slowly moving around the surface of the earth. For millions of years, the Indian subcontinent has been slowly moving north towards Europe and Asia (Eurasia). About 40-50 million years ago (mya), India slammed into Eurasia. Because both India and Eurasia were continents the Eurasia crust crumpled upwards, creating the Himalayan mountains. The leading edge of India was eventually forced underneath the continent in a process geologists call subduction. This movement is still happening today. However, as India continues to move slowly north, it gets hung up and energy builds. When enough energy builds up, there are short bursts of movement, releasing this massive energy and shaking and buckling the ground in what we call an earthquake.

Past disasters

In the last hundred years, several other earthquakes of similar strength have struck this region:

  • 2001 - 11,500 people killed - 7.6 magnitude quake struck Indian city of Gujarat
  • 1991 - 700 people killed - 6.7 magnitude quake struck in the remote Hindukush mountains of Afghanistan
  • 1935 - 35,000 people killed - 7.6 magnitude quake struck Quetta in the Baluchistan province (now western Pakistan)
  • 1905 - 20,000 people killed - 7.9 magnitude quake struck Kangra, in northern India

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Flickr has some pictures of collapsed buildings in Pakistan and the rescue efforts.

posted on Sun, 10/09/2005 - 12:11pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

BBC has cool interactive features about earthquakes.

posted on Mon, 10/10/2005 - 9:17am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Want to know more about the Richter scale and what earthquake magnitudes mean?

posted on Mon, 10/10/2005 - 11:57am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Here are stories from earthquake survivors.

posted on Mon, 10/10/2005 - 12:00pm
Hal's picture
Hal says:

This earthquake is a disaster, at a magnitude of 7.6 it was the largest quake Pakistan has had in 20years. The earthquakes epicentre is in Pakistan and the focus ias 9miles(15km) deep. So far 50,000 are known to be dead.

posted on Tue, 10/11/2005 - 11:19am
Jamal Panhwar's picture
Jamal Panhwar says:

There was also a major earthquake in 1975 in Pattan (Pakistan) 150Kms away from this earthquake, which also took 5000 lives.

It is said that the tectonic plates are rubbing and creating a negligible tremor every 8 minutes or so. The mountains are pinnacles and the rubble, dust, boulders, and stones are always coming down in this area. There is continuous geological activity going on in this region of Pakistan.

This phenomena has also made people to think about the height of Mount Everest and Mount K2. Some say K2 is rising 4CM every year and some say both are.

The mountains of this region are spectacular; however, this very fact of tectonic plates rubbing each other can be seen in the landslides which come on the Karakorum Highway (a road built along the Indus River) every now and then.

The present earthquake came in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, which very green and less active. But, as it is, energy can develop anywhere and this time it was the turn of the people of this region.


posted on Thu, 10/13/2005 - 1:21pm
Falak's picture
Falak says:

What are the Structural feature associated with Pakistan earthquake. Please tell me their breif discription

posted on Tue, 11/22/2005 - 4:23am
Muhammad Fawad Malik's picture
Muhammad Fawad Malik says:

We are facing Pakistan history's worst disaster. It was a nightmare, so dreadful, horrible and unforgettable. At this time of misery, grief and loss of MILLION'S OF HUMAN BEINGS (not in hundreds or thousands) we must appreciate and thankful to the WORLD (Britain's, Americans, Turkish, German etc), who are working with PAKISTANI people (like their own people, helped us using all means, resources and financial support.
OUR BEST AND EVERLASTING WISHES TO ALL THE WORLD, I don't have the words, how to express thanks.

posted on Thu, 10/13/2005 - 9:42pm
Sacaboom's picture
Sacaboom says:

Hiya yal! just wana say peace out 2 all dose dye'in an 'urt peaps. May da lord 'elp u true dis terrible time.

posted on Sat, 10/15/2005 - 3:27am
Jalal's picture
Jalal says:

The recent earthquake in Pkaistan has rendered millions homeless, beisdes some 40,000 dead. Thoush relief operations are in full swings, Pakistan needs two things very urgently: 1) Tents, and 2) helicopters to drop these tents to isolated razed to ground villages on hill tops, some now receiving snow fall. There are no roads to these small hamlets. After the shock of their dead ones, the survivors are facing death themselves. World community must come forward and donate as much tents as possible (to house at least 3 million homeless) and helicopters. Please come forward and save people who may not live long.

posted on Sun, 10/16/2005 - 12:18pm
Viking's picture
Viking says:

May God (Allah) give peace to all that died and are affected with the Earth Quake.\r\n\r\nBetter would be to know why there are regular shocks. and I think that is something unusual as there were more than 100 after shocks. Experts say that those aftershocks are good signs as most of the energy will be released after that. However there would be a big geological change and funny; as may be our continent might be somewhere close to Africa

posted on Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:09pm
Syed Tajdar Hussain's picture
Syed Tajdar Hussain says:

Awaiting the big one:

10 October New Scientist article

Plate tectonics map

posted on Wed, 10/19/2005 - 3:22am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Two strong aftershocks shook already devastated areas of Kashmir on Wednesday. (The first 5.8-magnitude aftershock struck 80 miles north of Islamabad, near the epicenter of the main quake. It was followed, 45 minutes later, by another in the same area that registered 5.6.)

People in the area have actually experienced hundreds, of aftershocks. Waverly Pearson, a seismologist at the U.S. quake center, told the Associated Press:

"They're not over. For a shallow-depth earthquake like this they go on, sometimes for a year."

Regional officials now estimate the death toll (between October 8th and today) at 79,000, with many people still in urgent need of medical care and about three million homeless. By comparison, last year's deadly quake and tsunami killed more that 174,000 people and left another 106,000 missing.

Relief workers are struggling to aid survivors, but it's a race against time as winter weather closes in.

  • Landslides have closed roads to some villages, and snow will make them even harder to reach. In the meantime, people are dying of their injuries, and medical staff are unable to reach them in time.
  • Hypothermia is a real risk--increased by recent rains--to the millions of people sleeping in the open due to lack of tents. (The United Nations estimates a need for 300,000 tents, saying that 20,000 have been given out, 150,000 are on the way, and another 100,000 have been promised.)
  • Food is a problem, too. Many villages had already brought in their harvest, storing supplies in granaries that were destroyed in the earthquake.

CNN has a special "South Asia Earthquake" section on its website.

posted on Wed, 10/19/2005 - 9:35am
azeem yasin's picture
azeem yasin says:

we all should pray for pakistan , may ALLAH ALMIGHTY SAVE THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN.

posted on Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:51pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Associated Press reporter Robert Tanner is in Pakistan, covering the aftermath of the earthquake. He posts stories to a blog every day.

posted on Mon, 10/24/2005 - 12:20pm
sami's picture
sami says:

this is a time of an exam and it is our respontibility to hlep those who are suffering from this painful time we should all get through this time as fast as we can may God help those people never stop praying for them

posted on Mon, 10/24/2005 - 2:43pm
Asmeen's picture
Asmeen says:

This is very tuff time for pakistan... No one can imagine that this can happen with Pakistan... Its time to apologize whatever we done in the past... I think this is all happened because of our "Aamaal" ... we are muslims but only by name and not reacting like a musilmaan. "Allah Hum Sub ko Naik Hadaiyat Day. Ameen"


khuda Hafiz

posted on Wed, 10/26/2005 - 1:53am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Earthquakes -- like hurricanes and tsunamis -- are natural occurances. The Earth is not responding to our moral failings. However, it is an opportunity for people of all faiths to show our better selves, to come together and help out our brothers and sisters in need.

posted on Thu, 10/27/2005 - 11:11am
bryony's picture
bryony says:

This page has helped me alot with my homework so thanks and i reckon we should get more people out there to help because people need our help.

posted on Mon, 11/07/2005 - 2:50pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it was 7.8 magnitude

posted on Mon, 11/28/2005 - 1:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Pray for the people effected by the pakistan earthquake. I am doing a homework on the earthquake and this page has helped me alot. I pray for everyone to be safe.

posted on Thu, 12/01/2005 - 2:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

good luck to all those in pakistan

posted on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 11:27am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Do you say what date the earthquake started & finished?

posted on Mon, 03/06/2006 - 8:35am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It is very very tuff for pakistan and we've had a enough of it.

posted on Thu, 03/30/2006 - 6:17am
thomaspalatt's picture
thomaspalatt says:

It seems that Pakistan is in a lot of environmental issues nowadays, with the nature itself turning against the nation. In some parts, the earthquake have done major damage but the loss of life is very less. Thank god for that!

posted on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 5:32am

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