The Earthquake in Haiti in 2010
On Tuesday, January 12, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti with catastrophic consequences. The epicenter of the earthquake hit near the town of Léogâne, roughly 16 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince. The earthquake hit at approximately 4:55pm local time and affected major cities surrounding the region.
By the time the sun rose on January 24th, there had been at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or higher on the Richter Scale. The earthquake and resulting aftershocks affected approximately 3 million people, with the death toll estimated at anywhere from 100,000 to 159,000 people. The Haitian government estimated there were 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings and businesses that had collapsed or had been extremely damaged.
Port-au-Prince suffered extensive damage, as well as Jacmel and other cities in the region. Several landmarks such as the Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the National Assembly were heavily damaged or destroyed, among others.
What Caused the Earthquake?
Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake occurred inland on the blind thrust faults that are associated with the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault system. It is believed that the earthquake had nothing to do with any significant movement or lateral slip of the Enquillo fault; they found no evidence of a surface rupture. The resulting earthquake was felt in several surrounding countries including Cuba, Venezuela, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The damage was more destructive than other earthquakes of similar strength due to the shallow depth of the quake itself.
The earthquake happened due to pressure or stress build up along the plates that converge over Haiti; the Caribbean tectonic plate and the North American Plate – which shifts approximately 20mm or 0.79 inches per year. The region has two strike slip fault areas in Haiti, the Septemtrional-Oriente fault and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault, which had not seen much movement in 250 years. The earthquake is believed to have only slightly relieved some of the built up stress from the constant movements of the plates.
Unlike the earthquake in the Indian Ocean which resulted in a massive tsunami that swept across the ocean, the Haiti earthquake resulted in a smaller wave. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did issue a warning shortly after the earthquake, but cancelled it soon after. It took two weeks after the earthquake to discover that a localized wave did in fact hit a small beach fishing town of Petit Paradis in which three people were swept out to sea. It is believed that this wave was caused by an underwater slide.