Stories tagged disaster

Big rocks hurtling through space tend to smash into our planet. Unfortunately if these rocks are big enough they could easily wipe out human civilization. So now the United Nations is drafting a plan about how to respond to an eminent asteroid impact. And no, their first step is not to hire Bruce Willis.


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