Ethiopian, American and European researchers have observed a fissure in a desert in the remote northeast that could be the "birth of a new ocean basin," scientists said in a conference in San Francisco on Friday.
Researchers from Britain, France, Italy and the US have been observing the 60-kilometer long fissure since it split open in September in the Afar desert and estimate it will take a million years to fully form into an ocean, said Dereje Ayalew, who leads the team of 18 scientists studying the phenomenon.
The fissure, now four meters wide, formed in just three weeks after a Sept. 14 earthquake in a barren region called Boina, some 1,000 kilometers north east of the capital, Addis Ababa, said Dereje on Friday.
"We believe we have seen the birth of a new ocean basin," said Dereje of Addis Ababa University. "This is unprecedented in scientific history because we usually see the split after it has happened. But here we are watching the phenomenon."