According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake occurred at 11:29:47 UTC, and the epicenter of the earthquake was at 26.971° north latitude, 65.520° east longitude at a depth of 15.0 kilometers. This places the epicenter at 63 kilometers north-northeast of Awaran, Pakistan and 114 kilometers northwest of Bela, Pakistan. The quake occurred as the result of oblique-strike-slip type motion at shallow crustal depths. The tectonic plate configuration in the Balochistan area includes three plates: the Arabia plate, the Eurasia plate, and the India plate. The India plate slides northward relative to the Eurasia plate in the east, and the Arabia plate subducts northward beneath the Eurasia plate in the west.
While quakes of this nature are rather common, this particular quake included an uncommon event: the formation of a new island about a kilometer off the coast of the city of Gwadar. According to Bahram Baloch, a local journalist, "It's an oval shaped island which is about 250-300 feet (76-91 meters) in length, and about 60-70 feet (18-21 meters) above the water."
Many observers were astonished. "I stepped out, and was flabbergasted. I could see this grey, dome-shaped body in the distance, like a giant whale swimming near the surface. Hundreds of people had gathered to watch it in disbelief," said Baloch.
Baloch and others visited the island to learn more. They discovered dead fish on the surface of the island and heard the sound of escaping gas hissing through the rocks. They lit the gas with a match, and as Baloch said, "We put the fire out in the end, but it was quite a hassle. Not even the water could kill it, unless one poured buckets over it."
"The seabed near the Makran coast has vast deposits of gas hydrates, or frozen gas having a large methane content," explained Rashid Tabrez, the director-general of the Karachi-based National Institute of Oceanography. "These deposits lay compressed under a sediment bed that is 300-800 meters thick. When the plates along the fault-lines move, they create heat and the expanding gas blasts through the fissures in the earth's crust, propelling the entire sea floor to the surface."
Such incidents have also occurred along the Makran coast in 1945, 1999, and 2010. In each case, the islands sunk back under sea level within months. "One reason is that over a period of time, the pressure that propelled the sea floor to the surface eases up, causing the islands to subside," said Tabrez. "Another reason is that the fine-grained muddy material of the sedimentary seabed soon starts to erode due to sea action. In seven or eight months, the island is gone, and only its signature remains on the seabed."