The continent of Africa may eventually split into two parts in the future, experts say, though the process would take tens of millions of years to happen.
Geologists have known about this possibility for some time now, but it became news once more when a large crack surfaced in southwestern Kenya after heavy rains, stretching several miles across the country, USA Today reports.
The land break continues to grow wider, collapsed part of a highway, and was “accompanied by seismic activity in the area,” according to Lucia Perez Diaz, a postdoctoral researcher on tectonics at Royal Holloway in London.
The crack is located in a region called the East African Rift Valley, measuring over 50 feet deep and 65 feet across at its widest point, according to National Geographic. A rift valley is a lowland region where tectonic plates are known to move apart, creating rifts.
The rift valley goes for 1,800 miles from the Gulf of Aden in the north towards Zimbabwe in the south, splitting the African plate into two uneven parts: the larger Nubian plate and the smaller Somali plate.
Should the rift continue to expand, it will eventually break the continent into two, with the smaller part covering present-day Somalia and parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and the bigger one holding all the other countries.
Christy Till, an Arizona State University geologist, said,
A rift like this once eventually separated the African and South American continents to form the Atlantic Ocean, and the rift in east Africa may be the very early stages of this. The process just occurs very slowly and takes millions of years.
“Dramatic events, such as sudden motorway-splitting faults or large catastrophic earthquakes may give continental rifting a sense of urgency but, most of the time, it goes about splitting Africa without anybody even noticing,” Perez Diaz said.