Why are Earthquakes in Haiti So Deadly and Destructive?


There’s a saying that there isn’t a such factor as a pure catastrophe. This sounds counterintuitive — we have seen numerous occasions the place earthquakes, eruptions or hurricanes have created immense injury and killed 1000’s. But, the frequent denominator in these disasters is not the geologic or meteorologic occasion, however quite the presence of individuals the place these occasions strike.

Over the weekend, a M7.2 earthquake struck the southern a part of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola. The destruction from this earthquake has killed over 1,300 folks, with many extra nonetheless lacking. If this appears acquainted, a M7.zero earthquake in 2010 struck Haiti. That temblor might have killed as much as 300,000 folks, primarily across the capitol metropolis of Port-au-Prince. Thus far, the 2021 earthquake has not wreaked the identical havoc because the 2010 occasion, however we’re nonetheless within the early days of restoration, with aftershocks nonetheless hitting the realm.

This new earthquake was felt throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in addition to on Cuba and Jamaica. Though it was a big earthquake, the planet feels many M7+ earthquakes in any given yr. Within the final month alone, there have been massive earthquakes within the South Sandwich Islands (M7.5 and M8.1), the Philippines (M7.3) and off the coast of Alaska (M8.2). None of those earthquakes have seen wherever close to the deaths and injury as occurred in Haiti.

What Makes Haitian Earthquakes So Lethal?

Why is that? Why can earthquakes of similiar dimension have such totally different impacts? Actually, it boils down to 3 primary issues: location, depth and preparedness.

The opposite 4 earthquakes occurred in locations the place there aren’t many individuals. Large earthquakes in Alaska and the South Sandwich islands do not actually impression many individuals straight (until one thing like a tsunami is generated). The most important inhabitants that felt any of those earthquakes was within the Philippines, the place over 1.Three million folks felt a minimum of some shaking. That is roughly the identical quantity that felt intense shaking in Haiti. But, the Philippine earthquake had little in the way in which of injury or casualties.

So, what set them aside? One piece of the puzzle is the depth of the earthquake. The Haitian earthquake’s focus was solely ~6.2 miles (10 kilometers) beneath the floor. The Philippine earthquake was ~41 miles (66 kilometers) down. That makes a giant distinction. Normally, the deeper the earthquake, the much less shaking is felt on the floor. So, though the earthquakes had been the identical magnitude — that’s, the launched roughly the identical power — the shaking of the Haitian earthquake on the floor can be that rather more intense.

The Human Variable

That alone is not sufficient to elucidate all of the distinction. The third motive that these earthquakes’ impacts had been so totally different is preparedness. Haiti has been in turmoil for many years and this has solely elevated for the reason that 2010 earthquake and the latest assisination of ther nation’s president. There’s little or no established hazard mitigation within the nation. Nobody is planning escape routes and organizing observe evacuations. There is not a big pressure like FEMA prepared to reply when a catastrophe strikes. Constructing codes aren’t as stringent as in nations the place authorities stability, funds and recurrance of earthquakes has make them constructing higher.

Haiti is an ideal storm for a real catastrophe introduced upon by each the circumstances of the earthquake and the political and social state of affairs within the nation. If factor could not be worse, Haiti is within the line of a tropical despair that might set off landslides throughout the nation as nicely. Sadly for nation’s like Haiti, it is extremely onerous to emerge from this sample of catastrophe and instability with out intense worldwide assist and funding. The world has come a great distance in stopping mass casualties throughout earthquakes in lots of locations like China, Japan and Taiwan. With out help, Haiti might proceed to see disasters like this once more.


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