Makran subduction zone

Published: May 19, 2017

It may seem far-fetched and even unnecessarily alarmist to a majority of people living along the coast but there is a possibility of a tsunami hitting the Makran coast. According to a study published in the Geophysical Journal International, a 1,000km long fault at the northern end of the Arabian Sea could expose people in Iran and Pakistan to the devastating impact that was seen earlier in the Indian Ocean following the December 26, 2004 tsunami. Camilla Penney, one of the co-authors of the study, says the Makran coastal belt is a subduction zone where one of the earth’s tectonic plates has been dragged beneath another. When that happens, a giant fault or a megathrust is formed. The sudden movement of a megathrust can offset the whole seafloor and set off the kinds of massive waves that we see in tsunamis.

The authors of the study believe it is important for people to be aware of the hazardous threat of living in coastal regions around the Arabian Sea. What has made the threat even more potent is the rapid urbanisation witnessed along the coasts of Oman and Pakistan. Several key cities in both those countries have large populations and could be extra vulnerable to the threat of tsunamis and earthquakes. Karachi, home to at least 25 million people, is situated on the eastern end of the subduction zone. Gwadar, which was badly damaged in an earthquake 72 years ago, is undergoing massive development. Muscat, the capital of Oman, is just 10 metres above the sea level. So what can be done at this stage in Pakistan and elsewhere?

It is clear that all possible measures need to be taken to protect the people from this or any other threat. Islamabad should commission an immediate study on the subduction zone in Makran and collaborate with those scientists who are already working on the issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2017.

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