The Evolution of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was hit by one of the most catastrophic earthquakes, which lasted for about thirty seconds to about sixty seconds.The quake registered 7.0 magnitude its main focal point based around the town of Leogane and approximately 25kilometers southwest of Port-au-Prince Haiti’s capital. This event killed more than three hundred thousand people and left several others injured, and nearly 1.5 million people were left homeless. Ten years later, Haiti has not recovered from the disaster despite billions of dollars spent on the country. The paper expounds on the inquiries that arose from the event and how the inquiries will help solve the problem of such disasters in the near future.

Haiti is located near the boundaries of two tectonic plates, the Caribbean and the North American. On January 12, 2010, the earthquake occurred in the boundary region that separates the Caribbean plate and the North American plate. It is so devastating that Haiti has not fully recovered from the quake, as many people are still in need of aid. Haiti is facing challenges ten years after the event, including political instability, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to essential resources. Progression of restoring the nation has been slower despite the millions of dollars received from donations

Haiti is currently one of the poorest countries with most of the people living under two dollars a day and is the only low-income nation west. Most Haitians depend on small scale farming as their primary source of living. Still, they occasionally face challenges due to the uncertainty of the weather and environmental disasters such as floods and drought. The disasters often reduce their yields and have caused most of the Haitians to starve, and almost half of the Haitian infants are hungry, and more than fifty thousand children under the age of five suffer malnutrition

Overpopulation in Haiti’s capital is a challenge that the small nation is facing. After the quake, thousands were left homeless and had to settle in camps, but after a decade, the people have not relocated to other safer places. The capital is still overpopulated. This shows the incapability of the government to solve the problem of overpopulation, and there are no urban planning policies to impose standards of construction. In the case of any other major earthquake, there will be a massive loss of lives across Haiti. The country also faces economic challenges as the country is less developed with high cases of unemployment, the collapse of educational centers, disease outbreak, and public utilities also suffered considerable damage, and also Haitians find it hard to access medical facilities.

Since the earthquake in 2010, Haiti has a lot of unanswered questions about the quake that had a magnitude of 7.0Mx. That struck just 13kms below the surface of the earth close to Haitian capital Port-au-Prince bringing down over half of the buildings of the town and crushing the lives, families, and aspirations of potentially hundreds of thousands of people. Immediately after the event, Troy Livesay, who worked for a Christian non-governmental organization, appealed for every person to go down on their knees and pray for the nation. But people started to ask on whom they should pray to and believe in since a quake of such magnitude and horrific consequence can open a fissure on the belief of God.

Does the earthquake arouse many questions, such as what caused the quake?  Why was Haiti so unprepared for such a disaster? The quake happened between the faults system of Enriquillo-Plantain garden, of which Haiti had not experienced a significant earthquake for about 200 years. Which means stress had been building up for quite some time. When the strain became enormous rocks along the fault failed and released a massive burst of energy less than a minute, this explains why the earthquake was of a higher magnitude, but why was an earthquake with such a high magnitude unable to be predicted by a geologist in such a digital era. In 2008 a geologist called Paul Mann concluded thatthe capital of Haiti had not experienced a major seismic event since the year 1751 and could face a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Still, they could not say with any degree of accuracy if the quake could be in the next day or after several years. This means that currently, there is no scientifically proven methods or theories of earthquake prediction(“The Haiti earthquake,” 2010)

After the earthquake, geologists such as Paul Mann started major research on the cause of the quake, which was three hundred times smaller than the most massive earthquake ever recorded. And why was it so deadly compared to other earthquakes and also research on the occurrence of another quake? The geologists studied the past pattern of shock that had hit the Haiti nation and concluded that there is a possibility of an, even more, more significant earthquake and of an entirely different nature to hit the country since the aftermath of the 2010 quake had left the land towards the north bulged upwards. The area to the south has subsided downward. Haiti also is surrounded by sophisticated tectonic plates, and just on the northeast coast of the Island is a second and most potentially deadly fault the main junction between North American and Carribean plate. This fault can generate an even more significant amount of stress, which poses a threat to the Haiti nation since geologists cannot accurately tell when the earthquake will happen.

Although Haiti’s earthquake wasn’t the biggest, it is noted that it was one of the deadliest, which raises questions as to why it registers a high number of deaths. Geologist argues that the earthquakes aren’t fatal and that the damages were preventable. Aftermaths of the earthquake left most of the buildings collapsed, including buildings that are supposed to be built to the highest standard; for example, hospitals, schools, and even presidential palaces all collapsed. This collapsed building indicates that they were shoddily constructed and were even unlikely to survive a magnitude of 2, Most buildings were constructed in slopes without proper foundation and were built using improper building materials this is what made the earthquake even more)deadly (Bilham, 2010)

From 1906 San Fransisco earthquake engineers have been investigating who buildings dynamically react to intense shock and the knowledge gained helped in construction of live safe buildings which can withstand earthquakes as seen from the 1994 earthquake that hit Los Angeles with a magnitude of 6.7, although the buildings were damaged the people were able to escape out alive. This means that Haitian people made houses that were not live safe and therefore were not suitable for people to use themsince they were death traps.From the geologist research, they also noticed that the capital of Haiti has soft sediments, which in the case of a seismic, will amplify more magnificent waves, which results in more damages. From the geologist, scientist and engineers research we can tell that Haiti is more vulnerable to earthquake and to prevent massive damages and massive loss of lives people should concentrate on building save houses which can withstand massive earthquake(Styles, 2010)

Clearly, from the harms experienced, exploration should be conducted in search of any possible nearby faults or perhaps other potions of the weakness to the east or the north, mainly the large subduction fault lying on the northeast coast of Haiti that hasn’t raptured for thousands of years. Haiti is geographically positioned at a position that is more vulnerable to experience more earthquakes and tsunamis as it is in the center of large tectonic plates, which poses a threat to the entire nation. This research will not only help the Haitians but many other nations, including South American countries(Wagner, 2013)

From Haiti 2010 earthquakes, a lot of things have been learned. Although the country being warned about the earthquake and the magnitude that it would carry with it about two years before the catastrophic event, the government never took any action to reduce damages that the earthquake posed to the nation the government also never had a disaster management plan as may people lost their lives. Many thousands were left homeless with nowhere to go and would rather sleep on the streets of  Port-au- Prince. From the earthquake, we can understand that one cannot predict the date or the time that the event will happen. Still, we can manage the situation by conducting frequent research and getting prepared before the disastrous event hits as unaware.




Bilham, R. (2010). Lessons from the Haiti earthquake. Nature463(7283), 878-879. doi: 10.1038/463878a

Styles, P. (2010). The Haiti Earthquake: a salutary lesson in (non) earthquake engineering. Geology Today26(2), 53-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2451.2010.00746.x

The Haiti earthquake.(2010). Physics Today.doi: 10.1063/pt.5.024005

Wagner, A. (2013). Tectonic Shifts. Haiti Since the Earthquake20131Schuller M. and Morales P…Tectonic Shifts. Haiti Since the Earthquake. Sterling: 2012 Kumarian Press. Disaster Prevention And Management: An International Journal22(3), 293-295. doi: 10.1108/dpm-03-2013-0061

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