Environment

Haiti Earthquake of 2010

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was a major catastrophe which occurred just west of the nation's capital.

On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the worst to be recorded in two centuries of the country’s history. The earthquake caused untold suffering to the citizens and an unprecedented crisis which required help from the international community to help mitigate.

A Country Prone To Natural Disasters

Haiti has had its share of natural disasters throughout history from earthquakes to cyclones. Records noted by the French Historian, Moreau de Saint-Méry, describe numerous earthquakes including a devastating one in 1751. Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic, occupy the seismically active island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. However, Haiti is ranked as one of the poorest states in the region, and it is ill-equipped to deal with disasters of such magnitude.

When The Earthquake Struck..

The 2010 Haiti Earthquake struck on January 12, 2010, at approximately 16:53 local time. Its epicenter was estimated 16 miles from Port-au-Prince. The earthquake recorded a magnitude of 7.0 and a depth of 8.1 miles. It was the most destructive earthquake to be recorded in the nation's 200-year old history. Geologically, the earthquake was triggered by the release of seismic stresses which existed between the Caribbean and North American plates. The movement of the plates in opposite directions created what is referred to as strike-slip faults. Haiti lies close to the boundary of the two plates and thus bore the brunt of the earthquake.

Aftershocks Of The Earthquake

The earthquake triggered aftershocks that caused even more damage. Two hours after the main event, eight tremors with magnitudes ranging between 4.3 and 5.9 had been recorded. By January 24, over 80 aftershocks had been recorded, some with a magnitude of over 5.0. The strongest aftershock measured 5.9, and it struck on January 20, 35 miles from the country’s capital. Its epicenter was in the coastal town of Petit-Goâve. The town reported damage to 15% of its buildings.

Consequences Of The Earthquake

Reports on the number of casualties vary from 100,000 to 160,000, while government estimates vary from 220,000 to 316,000. An estimated 300,000 people were injured while 1.5 million were rendered homeless. Poor living conditions after the earthquake resulted in a humanitarian crisis within the country due to the spread of diseases such as cholera. The earthquake caused destruction to infrastructure ranging from schools, churches, hospitals, residences, and commercial buildings. Several government buildings in Port-au-Prince suffered damage including the presidential palace, parliament building, main prison, and the supreme court. The city’s municipal buildings were also destroyed. An estimated 3,978 schools were damaged leading the country’s education minister to declare the nation’s education system to have collapsed. Offices of the world bank, as well as the headquarters of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti, were heavily damaged.

Aftermath Of The Disaster

Thousands of people resorted to sleeping on the streets or in makeshift shanty towns due to the destruction of their homes. The capital’s morgue became overwhelmed, and the government designated mass graves to bury the dead. Violence and looting emerged as an effect of dealing with the slow distribution of resources. Governments and individuals pledged aid to the country, and the US dispatched military troops to assist the government. Billions of dollars were raised from across the world to support recovery efforts in the country. The country is still recovering from the disaster of such an immense size.

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