World News Editor
Firefighters complete a search and rescue mission, scurrying to find individuals trapped under the rubble as a result of the earthquake
Just before 8:30 AM on Saturday, August 14 of 2021, Haiti suffered yet another catastrophic earthquake. Still recovering from 2010’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, was devastated yet again, this time, by a 7.2 magnitude quake. While earthquakes are not uncommon in Haiti, one of this scale caused mass destruction and took the lives of thousands. Let’s begin to understand the scale of this quake and the reasons for which it occurred.
Haiti has a history of devastating earthquakes. As mentioned before, in 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the country, taking the lives of around 220,000 people and displacing another one million. In the 90 days following the quake, the response team helped nearly two million people receive the most basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, and sanitation. And within four years of the quake, an additional 250,000 people received direct help, along with the building of three hundred permanent houses in Léogâne, Haiti, intended to be occupied by victims of the quake. Though the recovery has been an ongoing effort, to this day, Haiti still struggles to bounce back from the aftermath and damage left behind.
To make matters worse, in August of 2021, Haiti suffered yet another catastrophic earthquake, this time of a magnitude of 7.2. Damaging large parts of the Tiburon Peninsula in southern Haiti, more than 53,000 houses were destroyed, 2,200 people killed, over 12,000 people injured, and many people are still unaccounted for. As local hospitals in the epicenter and surrounding cities affected by the quake filled to capacity, those that survived pleaded for help in search of their loved ones. And then, just days after the quake ripped apart cities, tropical storm Grace drenched parts of the country, including those impacted by the earthquake, dropping up to ten inches of rain. Not to mention that this all comes after the country has been without a functioning government following the assassination of now-former President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021. With so much going on so quickly, in a country with no authoritative leadership, and with a large number of people either still grappling with the effects of the 2010 earthquake or being recently impacted by the 2021 earthquake, the situation in Haiti is dire.
You may be wondering why it seems as though these earthquakes are not so uncommon in Haiti? Well, Haiti sits on a fault line between two tectonic plates — that is, giant pieces of the earth that collide with one another over time. The fault line reportedly responsible for the 2010 earthquake, and most recently, the 2021 earthquake, is known as the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone. Though this fault line ceased to cause any trouble for around 200 years leading up to the 2010 earthquake, the amount of stress built up has caused immense damage during its two most recent tremors. And experts are expecting that this wave of quakes will continue to go on, costing more lives and continuing to crumble an already struggling Haitian economy.
While efforts to recover from the 2010 quake have never ceased, some “improvements” have been made. As a country that also deals with numerous hurricanes per year, Haiti has looked to build more residential buildings with concrete. While this may seem like a step in the right direction, it doesn’t change the risk posed by earthquakes. Concrete structures are known to crumble when tremors strike, and with the imminent threat of additional catastrophic earthquakes, steps to save lives during hurricane season might just endanger more when another quake strikes. Hopefully, Haiti can look into more practical solutions to save lives in the event of both hurricanes and earthquakes.
While this may be yet another devastating earthquake for Haiti, it is quite likely another might come at some point in the future. It is crucial to understand the causes of these horrendous quakes and their aftermath so that, hopefully, Haiti can take measures to mitigate the lives lost and damage done and give additional support to response teams in the event another catastrophic earthquake strikes.
Photo Credit: USA Today