Understanding the Pakistan January 19 Magnitude 7.2 earthquake

Tectonic plates movement during the Pakistan January 19 2011 earthquake

The depth of this earthquake was 84 km so fortunately the violence of ground shaking was strong but not as severe as it would have been for a shallower earthquake of the same magnitude.
For example, the ground shaking expected at the epicenter of the January 18, 2011 earthquake was about one-fourth as violent as the ground shaking produced by the smaller M7.0 Haiti earthquake that had a depth of 13 km.
Because southwestern Pakistan is sparsely populated (Dalbandin has a population of about 15,000), it is thought that there will be few injuries or fatalities. However, communications with the affected area are limited and the impact of this earthquake is uncertain.

The earthquake activity in Pakistan is related to the ongoing continent-continent collision between India and Asia.
That collision has produced the Himalaya Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau.

This major earthquake occurred as a result of normal faulting within the lithosphere of the subducted Arabian plate.
The present-day tectonic environment of Pakistan is determined by the motions of the Arabian and Indian plates north-northeast with respect to the Eurasian plate at velocities of 35 a 40 mm/year at the longitude of this earthquake.
Arabian-plate lithosphere is subducted beneath the Eurasia plate at the Makran coast of Pakistan and Iran, and becomes progressively deeper to the north.
The subducted Arabian plate is known to be seismically active to depths of about 160 km.
The frequency of moderate and large earthquakes within the subducted Arabian plate is not high compared with the frequency of such events in some other subducted plates worldwide, but several earthquakes have occurred within this slab in the region of today's event over the past 30 years, including a magnitude 6.7 shock two hundred kilometers to the southwest in 1983.

Compiled of excerpts from USGS and IRIS

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