Haiti should brace for more devastating quakes: study

January 26, 2012
A man walks down the road by the sea near the settlement of Titanyen, an area north of Port au Prince, in 2011. The 2010 earthquake that devastated southern Haiti may have opened a new era of seismic activity and residents should brace for more massive temblors, said a US study on Thursday.

The 2010 earthquake that devastated southern Haiti may have opened a new era of seismic activity and residents should brace for more massive temblors, said a US study on Thursday.

The 7.0 that killed 250,000 people and leveled much of the capital Port-au-Prince, was of a magnitude unseen on the island since the 18th century, said the study in the .

A equivalent 6.6 level quake in 1701, centered in the same region and described in similar ways to the 2010 according to historical accounts, was followed by three big quakes -- two in 1751 and one in 1770, said the study.

Those quakes would be equal to about 7.5, 6.6 and 7.5 today, and were all located on or near the same crack in the Earth's crust known as the Enriquillo fault that extends along southern Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The has accumulated "considerable potential slip" since the 18th century, and regional in the Earth may be sufficient to unleash more massive temblors in the coming years, said the research.

"The 2010 Haiti earthquake may mark the beginning of a new cycle of large earthquakes on the Enriquillo fault system after 240 years of seismic quiescence," said the study, led by William Bakun of the US Geological Survey.

"The entire Enriquillo fault system appears to be seismically active; Haiti and the Dominican Republic should prepare for future devastating earthquakes."

Bakun's study reviews the history of earthquakes and hurricanes on the known as Hispaniola since it was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and was swiftly colonized by Europeans.

A Hatian man walks through the ruins of the Cathedral in Port-au-Prince in 2011. The 2010 earthquake that devastated southern Haiti may have opened a new era of seismic activity and residents should brace for more massive temblors, said a US study on Thursday.

"There are ample Spanish, French, and British accounts describing the social and physical conditions of Hispaniola in the past 500 years," said the study.

"The five centuries of of the is arguably the longest in the western hemisphere."

With that historical perspective, the island's seismic record is comparable to that of the San Andreas fault in California, where 56 years of "significant earthquake activity" beginning in 1850 culminated in San Francisco's 7.8 quake on the moment magnitude scale in 1906, Bakun wrote.

USGS analysts have predicted that there is a 62 percent probability of another major, damaging earthquake in the San Francisco area by 2031.

And while the science of predicting earthquakes is imprecise, seismologists are gaining better knowledge of risk rates using more advanced technologies and an examination of the historical record for clues.

There are no reports of earthquakes in the area before 1700, and no comparable ones until 2010, though there was a quake in 1860 that was centered further north on the island and is considered unrelated to the fault system.

An analysis of past patterns suggests that the 2010 quake was a re-rupture of the same zone as in 1701, indicating that the Enriquillo fault system may be on a 310 year cycle, said the study.

Bakun and colleagues noted that much of the devastation around the capital in 2010 was due to "inadequate building practices," and urged more seismic hazard mitigation efforts in future construction across southern Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Explore further: Haiti fault capable of another big quake: study

Related Stories

Haiti fault capable of another big quake: study

October 24, 2010

The January 12 earthquake in Haiti failed to release all the tension in a notorious seismic fault, leaving its capital exposed to the risk of another seismic disaster, US scientists reported Sunday.

Scientists warned Haiti officials of quake in '08

January 15, 2010

(AP) -- Scientists who detected worrisome signs of growing stresses in the fault that unleashed this week's devastating earthquake in Haiti said Thursday they warned officials there two years ago that their country was ripe ...

What Happened in Haiti?

January 20, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- As the world focuses on the heart-wrenching losses and unbelievable devastation of the recent earthquake in Haiti, researchers at Michigan Technological University, discuss what happened there and why.

After Haiti, Worries About Other Big Quakes

January 18, 2010

In the last several days, while the attention of the world has been focused on the human toll of Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti, scientists have begun to look at the quake's geological toll. What is the danger to populations ...

Recommended for you

Fish to benefit if large dams adopt new operating approach

December 18, 2017

Thousands of dams built along U.S. rivers and streams over the last century now provide electricity for homes, store water for agriculture and support recreation for people. But they also have significant downstream impacts: ...

Heavy oils and petroleum coke raising vanadium emissions

December 15, 2017

Human emissions of the potentially harmful trace metal vanadium into Earth's atmosphere have spiked sharply since the start of the 21st century due in large part to industry's growing use of heavy oils, tar sands, bitumen ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 27, 2012
indeed, if they do not prepare themselves better the next big one could end up being a very tragic mistake costing many lives again. I hope that doesnt happen. The good part of mistakes is that you can learn from them.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.