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The Cause of Haiti's Latest Earthquake: Is the Worst Yet to Come?

 
Anonymous Coward
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01/24/2010 08:26 AM
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The Cause of Haiti's Latest Earthquake: Is the Worst Yet to Come?
The Cause of Haiti's Latest Earthquake: Is the Worst Yet to Come?


A Look at the Seismic Science in the Caribbean.


Jeneen Interlandi


In the seven days since a 7.0 earthquake struck the island of Haiti and decimated its capital city, at least 14 aftershocks measuring 5 or above have been recorded by the United States Geological Survey—including a 6.0 quake in Haiti just this morning. The event confirms a new report by Woods Hole seismologists which found that not only would such shocks be likely to continue, but the already devastated island nation would face great risk of significant future calamity.

Haiti and its neighbors sit above two tectonic plates (the North American and the Caribbean) that slide awkwardly past one another in an east-west direction at about an inch a year. The 100-mile border between these two plates, known as the Enriquillo-Plaintain fault line, extends from the Dominican Republic through Haiti all the way to Jamaica. Last Tuesday’s rupture occurred when a segment of the plates that had been stuck together since 1751 (when the last earthquake occurred) jerked themselves free, releasing 250 years of built-up friction from the earthquake’s epicenter and displacing just enough ground to topple Haiti’s fragile and ill-prepared capital.

Not all of that tension was released by the quake. As this map—created by UNAVCO, a nonprofit geology consortium—shows, a good deal of it has merely been shifted to other segments of the same fault line, collecting in two spots in particular: 20 miles west of the original epicenter, near the port village of Miragoâne (already the site of several vigorous aftershocks) and 10 miles east, near the Dominican border (where aftershocks have yet to be reported). Eventually, say seismologists, the tension in both places will be released by seismic events equal to or greater than that of Tuesday's quake.

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Of course, when that might happen is anybody’s guess. "We know that both spots will rupture at some point," says Jian Lin, a Woods Hole geophysicist and the report's lead author. "But it could be in 10 months, or 10 years—or even 100 years."

While earthquakes are generally difficult to predict, data on the tectonic plates underlying the Caribbean have been especially paltry. Part of the problem is that in much of the region, the plate boundaries themselves are below sea level and thus inaccessible to scientists. The other problem is that political instability and dire poverty have made the region a challenging one for seismologists; until very recently, no consistent earthquake-monitoring efforts were even attempted. (Compare that with the San Andreas fault in California, where both sides of the plate boundary are above sea level and have been heavily monitored for decades.) While scientists have been studying the region more closely since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami spurred a public outcry for better disaster preparedness, they say not enough data has accumulated to make reliable forecasts.

What seismologists do know is that between 1751 and 1770, Haiti and its environs were struck by three major earthquakes, each about 10years apart. They also know that the Enriquillo fault is not the only one to transect Haiti: a second fault line, north of the Enriquillo, has been accumulating tension for roughly 800 years and is considered overdue for a major quake. When one connects these dots, it becomes clear that the Caribbean is an active seismic zone and that more earthquakes, like the aftershock that hit today and the original quake that devastated Haiti, should not come as a surprise. Now the question remains: if we know they're coming, how can we protect cities in the Caribbean so that the devestation in Haiti never happens again?
Anonymous Coward (OP)
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01/24/2010 08:31 AM
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Re: The Cause of Haiti's Latest Earthquake: Is the Worst Yet to Come?
Haiti Earthquake Aftershock Rumbles Port-au-Prince Again
posted January 20, 2010 - 10:49




The latest news about the earthquake aftershock that occurred today, January 20, 2010 in Haiti is quite tragic and shocking. This aftershock reached a magnitude of 5.9 and, once again shook up the city of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. The aftershock occurred while most of the earthquake victims were asleep in their “tent homes” early this morning.

The earthquake on Jan.12 lasted about 30 seconds and this aftershock lasted just a handful of seconds but managed to cause even more damage and terrify the Haitian people even more. It has been reported that the aftershock left thousands of people running from their homes and into the streets along with the other Haitians whose homes were previously destroyed. People crouched down and embraced each other in utter fear. They cried, screamed and begged God for forgiveness and mercy. One man said, “we can no longer sleep in our houses, we just can’t, we are too scared.”
The world has watched in horror as the Haitian people suffer from a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the worst in 200 years. This terrible earthquake unexpectedly rocked the 3rd world country and it’s people on January 12, 2010. The earthquake aftermath has left huge devastation throughout the city of Port-au-Prince as well as surrounding areas. Thousands of homes and businesses have been completely turned to rubble. The Haitian people have suffered tremendous losses; people were literally buried alive at their homes and jobs. At least 50,000 people have been presumed dead and thousands are wounded. There are many Haitian families who are still in search of their missing family members; some of these people have no other choice than to search through piles of bodies outside of the neighborhood morgues.

Relief workers have been trying their best over the last week to provide relief to the thousands of Haitians in need of water, food, clothing, medical attention and water. Rescue and relief efforts have been and remain to be very difficult. Although the majority of the people in need are in Port-au-Prince it has been very difficult for aid workers to get to these people. The earthquake aftermath has caused roads to be blocked, bridges to be broken and so many people along the way in need of assistance.

So many of us around the world are hoping and praying for the Haitian people. Along with the Haitians we are wondering, “will this ever come to an end?” Unfortunately, there is only so much we can do. We can pray, we can love, we can hope and we can donate our time and money to help the victims of this tragedy. I have provided some links where you can learn about and donate to relief efforts for the earthquake victims.
Anonymous Coward
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01/24/2010 08:35 AM
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Re: The Cause of Haiti's Latest Earthquake: Is the Worst Yet to Come?
In the seven days since a 7.0 earthquake struck the island of Haiti and decimated its capital city, at least 14 aftershocks measuring 5 or above have been recorded by the United States Geological Survey—including a 6.0 quake in Haiti just this morning.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 869645


Nope. No 6.0 this morning, not in Haiti or anywhere.

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