The Aftermath: Haiti

16 01 2010

In the waning afternoon sun in Haiti, at approximately 4:53pm on January 12, 2010 – a violent earthquake struck the island. Registering as a 7.0 on the Richter scale, the quake caused widespread destruction all across the island and sent tremors outward felt as far away as Tampa, Florida, eastern Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Jamaica. Damage and casualties were especially prevalent in the Port-au-Prince area where death tolls still rise and thousands upon thousands are missing. At last check, preliminary tolls appear to be near if not over 100,000 in dead and missing, although alternate estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. Being so close in time to the event, actual numbers are quite uncertain.

Magnitude 7.0
Date-Time Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:53:10
Location 18.457°N, 72.533°W
Depth 13 km (8.1 miles)
Distances 25 km (15 miles) WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
  130 km (80 miles) E of Les Cayes, Haiti
  150 km (95 miles) S of Cap-Haitien, Haiti
  1125 km (700 miles) SE of Miami, Florida
Parameters NST=312, Nph=312, Dmin=143.7 km, Rmss=0.93 sec, Gp= 25°,
  M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=9
Event ID us2010rja6

The earthquake was caused due to a sudden shift in the fault separating the North American plate and the Caribbean plate. Haiti sits on the invisible boundary between the two. Although the normal slip, or movement, of the plates is only about 20mm per year, the sudden shift resulted in the catastrophic event that unfolded that day. The shift was not a large shift to basic perception, but even the smallest sudden shift in plate tectonics can have deadly consequences.

The region is not unfamiliar to quakes in general. Although quakes of this size haven’t occurred in over a hundred years, it is not uncommon. Below is a list of notable quakes which have occurred in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean.

Martinique region, Windward Islands 11/29/2007 Magnitude 7.4 Deaths: 1 Info
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean 09/10/2006 Magnitude 5.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Cayman Islands, Caribbean 12/14/2004 Magnitude 6.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 11/21/2004 Magnitude 6.3 Deaths: 1 n/a
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 10/08/1974 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 0 Info
Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands 12/25/1969 Magnitude 7.2 Deaths: 0 n/a
Samana, Dominican Republic 08/04/1946 Magnitude 8.0 Deaths: 100* Info
Mona Passage, Caribbean 10/11/1918 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 116 Info
Kingston, Jamaica 01/14/1907 Magnitude 6.5 Deaths: 1,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 11/18/1867 Magnitude n/a Deaths: n/a Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 02/08/1843 Magnitude 8.3* Deaths: 5,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 05/02/1787 Magnitude 8.0* Deaths: n/a Info
Jamaica region, Caribbean 06/07/1692 Magnitude n/a Deaths: 2,000* Info
* Denotes Estimated

International efforts have began to take influence in the region. Former United States president, Bill Clinton, has spent time in the area devastated by the quake – inciting that people from the United States and around the world pitch in and help with what they can. He asked everyone to get in contact with relief agencies and donate what they can – but stated that what is needed most is not food or supplies, nor clothing or aid in rescue efforts – but to donate money to the relief agencies. He cited that money is what is needed most at this time. Clinton also beckoned other world leaders to do what they can – to donate aid in any way they could be it helicopters, doctors, equipment to dig through rubble – anything.

Current United States president Obama has made several remarks regarding the devastation, promising a “swift, coordinated and aggressive response” from the United States. Obama also asked other world leaders to fulfill obligations to donate aid to the country in peril.

A parallel statement by former president Clinton stated, “Most countries are way behind on fulfilling it. … If you can provide any emergency help, if you can give us helicopters or basic medical supplies — we need that.”

Although the grinding of these two plates don’t affect most of the United States in ways like it did Haiti, North Americans are still quite vulnerable to earthquakes. Another blog post I’ve done outlines one of the potentially devastating fault zones in the U.S., the New Madrid Fault Zone. View This Article.

For those which have loved ones in the region: President Obama is urging Americans trying to locate family in Haiti to telephone the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

For any parties which know more about the situation than is posted here: I would love to hear from you. If you have any additional, credible information or a way for non-American individuals to find family in Haiti, send me an email with what you know and I’ll gladly append it to this post and credit you. For others, I would love to hear your feedback on the information posted here. Was it helpful to you? Was it accurate? Just use the comment feature and let me know!