The Big One Devastates Haiti - by Stephen Lendman
With all their woes, the last thing Haitians needed was the calamitous earthquake (the most severe in the region in over 200 years) that struck Port-au-Prince, surrounding areas, and other parts of the country on January 12 at about 5PM (2200 GMT), devastating the capital, possibly killing hundreds of thousands, injuring many more, and disrupting the lives of millions of people already overwhelmed by other crushing hardships.
An AP report said "journalists found the damage staggering even for a country long accustomed to tragedy and disaster." Many hundreds of thousands lost everything, including loved ones.
Tremors were felt across the country and throughout the region. Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, however, are in shambles. Rubble is strewed everywhere. Roads are impassable. One to Delmas collapsed down a mountain burying many homes underneath. The airport closed, then reopened so relief flights in began. Fires were burning across the city. The National Cathedral and Palace of Justice, Haiti's Supreme Court, collapsed. So did the Presidential Palace, UN headquarters, hotels, other municipal buildings, business structures, schools, hospitals, churches, everything in an event of biblical proportions.
People were wandering the streets dazed, searching for loved ones. Power is out so communication only by satellite phone is possible, and there's no TV or radio. In the wealthy Petionville neighborhood, a hospital, ministry building and private homes collapsed. So did other buildings across the capital and in rural communities like Leogane. Jacmel in the southeast also sustained major damage.
Poor Haitians in homes built on mountains suffered heavily as reports said they tumbled down, one on top of another likely killing everyone inside.
The US Geological Service (USGS) reported that the quake was felt throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in Turks and Caicos Islands, southeastern Cuba, eastern Jamaica, in parts of Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, and as distant as Tampa, FL and Caracas, Venezuela. Its epicenter was about 10 miles off the Port-au-Prince coast, close to the surface at six miles underground. No tsunami is expected as initially feared.
Registering 7.0 (other reports said 7.3) plus severe aftershocks, (dozens so far with readings high as 5.9) it:
"occurred in the boundary region separating the Caribbean plate and the North American plate (dominated) by left-lateral slip motion and compression (close to the surface), and accommodates about 20 mm/y slip, with the Caribbean plate moving eastward with respect to the North American plate."
Head of earth hazards at the British Geological Survey, David Kerridge, said:
"there is a strong possibility of landslides, which may have caused many causalities in more remote parts of the island."
Earlier Warning Unheeded
Writing in Haiti's Le Matin on September 25, 2008, Phoenix Delacroix quoted geologist Patrick Charles of Havana's Geological Institute saying:
"conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince. The inhabitants of the Haitian capital need to prepare themselves for an event which will inevitably occur...." Citing a real danger, he added: "Thank God that science has provided instruments that help predict these type of events and show how we have arrived at these conclusions."
He explained that the dangerous Enriquillo Fault Zone extends across Port-au-Prince, starting in Petionville, traversing the Southern Peninsula to Tiburon. Noting earlier tremors in the area, he said a larger earthquake usually follows. Nonetheless, no precautions were taken, leaving Haitians vulnerable to what's now all too apparent.
It's reminiscent of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city on August 29, 2005. Warned in advance, the city was woefully unprepared even though it's shaped like a bowl, lies below sea level, and its Gulf coast location is hazardous.