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Breakdown: Why Haiti is more prone to catastrophic earthquakes

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 11:33 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Earthquakes in Haiti go as far back as the 18th century. Places like Port-au-Prince was destroyed twice in 19 years. The most recent powerful quake killed hundreds and injured thousands. In 2010 an earthquake struck Haiti and killed tens of thousands of people, if not more.

The problem when it comes to earthquakes in Haiti is that it sits near the intersection of two tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust. Earthquakes can occur when plates move against each other and create friction. Haiti is also very populated and buildings are made to hold up against hurricanes not so much when it comes to earthquakes. Strong winds are one thing but another for buildings to hold when the ground shakes.

Another reason Haiti is so vulnerable to devastating earthquakes is because multiple fault lines are between those plates which cut through or near the island of Hispaniola, which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic. Geologist point out that not all of those fault lines will behave the same way during an earthquake.

According to the USGS the Saturday’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake likely occurred along the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone, which cuts across Haiti’s southwestern Tiburon Peninsula.

It’s the same fault zone which the catastrophic earthquake occured on in 2010. According to geologist this same faut zone was likely the source of three other devastating earthquakes in Haiti between 1751 and 1860, two of which destroyed Port-au-Prince.

Geologists say they cannot predict the next earthquake but they do know that earthquakes like the one that just happened in Haiti, can cause earthquakes that are similar in size on the next portion of the fault.

Construction of more earthquake-resistant buildings is needed but remains a challenge in Haiti, which is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Prior to this most recent quake, Haiti was still recovering from the 2010 earthquake and was still recovering from Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

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