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19 January 2011

Earthquake Rocks Pakistan, Afghanistan

A major earthquake rocked southwestern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, very early Wednesday morning. The USGS is reporting that the quake registered at 7.2 on the Richter Scale, and aftershocks have been reported as far away as Himachal Pradesh in India. The quake was also felt in nearby areas of Iran and across much of Afghanistan. At the moment the USGS is expecting low fatality numbers with less than 100 dead. The main reason for this is the remote area in which the earthquake occurred.

Until now I have been talking about how great the snow pack in Afghanistan and Iran is, the earthquake doesn't change that for the majority of the region. However, the earthquake may have 'loosened' some of the snow in the southern mountains of Afghanistan. The snow pack here is unusually high for this point in the season, measuring in some places at over 100 cm (40 inches). The shaking may have triggered avalanches in the region, or made the snow more prone to an avalanche, which could be triggered by something else smaller in scale and more local. This also goes for areas of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the northern mountains of India. Iran is less likely to be affected as most of its snow pack is far away from the Pakistan border, and the rugged terrain in between will dampen out most of the shaking. Damage from the earthquake is still likely in all four countries.

*Images and fatality forecast from the USGS

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