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Earthquakes and Society


Earthquakesand Society

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ColoradoState University – Global Campus

Natural disasters have had a considerable impact on humancivilization. A 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on 12thJanuary, 2010 (Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016). The naturaldisaster devastated a large section of Port-au-Prince. The earthquakewas noteworthy due to the widespread destruction of property and theloss of human lives.

Effectsof the Earthquake

The Haiti earthquake had a massive impact on the country’spopulation and economy. 220,000 people were estimated to have diedwhile over 300,000 were injured. The earthquake affected more thanthree million residents (Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016).In fact, 1.5 million Haitians were rendered homeless. In this regard,over 100,000 homes were destroyed while almost 200,000 experiencedsevere damage. The earthquake also left tons of debris and rubble inPort-au-Prince. Consequently, many roads and railway lines wereblocked. School-going children were also severely affected since4,000 educational centers were either destroyed or damaged.Furthermore, 25% of civil servants in the capital city lost theirlives (Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016).

The earthquakes caused widespread damage to the country’s keyinstitutions. For example, 60% of schools in the West and Southregions were destroyed while 80% of learning centers inPort-au-Prince were damaged. 60% of administrative and governmentfacilities were also crushed to rubble (Haiti Earthquake Facts andFigures, 2016). In fact, the Presidential residence was also damaged.The earthquake displaced more than 600,000 people in the capitalcity. Millions of people were forced to live in temporary camps withpoor sanitation. Notably, more than 90,000 people were in danger ofexperiencing storms and flooding.


Besides, the earthquake had a tremendous economic impact in Haiti.For example, more than 30,000 commercial buildings were damagedbeyond repair. The infrastructure network was incapacitated due tothe destruction of major roads and telecommunication lines. Inparticular, some roads were cracked and filled with the debris fromdamaged cars. The country’s productive port was also shut downafter the earthquake occurred. Several cranes collapsed andinterfered with the movement of important supplies into the country.Haiti’s main airport was also damaged such that planes could notaccess the nation. The destruction of manufacturing facilitieshampered the country’s clothing industry. Over 60% of Haiti’sexports comprised of textile products. Hence, the country experiencedan increase in its balance of payments after the earthquake. Inaddition, the unemployment rate increased since 20% of jobs were lost(Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016). The natural disasterdestroyed the majority of the country’s industries and agriculture.Primary exports such as coffee and mangoes also suffered significantreductions.

Notably, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated the economiccosts of the earthquake would supersede $14 billion (Jaiswal &ampWald, 2013). The financial institution considered the naturaldisaster to be worse than the Myanmar cyclone of 2008 and theIndonesian Tsunami of 2004. Moreover, the total damage to Haiti’sroads, infrastructure, and the economy was twice higher compared tothe country’s GDP (Jaiswal &amp Wald, 2013). The devastation fromthe earthquake was exacerbated by the nation’s extreme poverty. Infact, over 70% of Haiti’s population lived on less than $2 a day(Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016). Additionally, nearly halfof the country’s residents were undernourished. Haiti also has highinfant mortality, HIV prevalence, and birth rates. Many of thecountry’s buildings were constructed using defective materials. Theexistence of these conditions increased the potential for structuraldamage from natural disasters. Consequently, the 2010 earthquakecaused plenty of destruction to the country’s economy.


Inevitably, the aftermath of the earthquake caused a humanitariancrisis in the country. The congestion of people in camps and otherareas caused massive challenges in aid response. Consequently, acholera outbreak occurred in October 2010. The disease had killedalmost 6,000 people and infected 216,000 within ten months (Rowan,2010). Permanent damage occurred when some parts of the land sunkbelow the sea level. Plenty of international assistance has beenchanneled to Haiti from humanitarian organizations and developednations. Notwithstanding, thousands of residents still lack propershelter, sanitary conditions, and adequate food. Reconstructionprojects have also stalled due to damaged infrastructure andcorruption practices. Therefore, Haiti faces numerous long-termchallenges owing to the 2010 earthquake.


The 2010 earthquake was caused along the boundaries of the CaribbeanPlate and North American Plate. Notably, Port-au-Prince lies on afault line that extends from the Puerto Rico Trench. The earthquakewas caused on a strike-slip fault line since the Gonvave Platelet wassliding west while the Caribbean Plate was moving in the oppositedirection (Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures, 2016). However, thedamage was not consistent with what would have been expected from theboundary. The destruction in Haiti was intensified by high populationdensity and low building standards. In fact, numerous aftershocksrocked the country after the main earthquake.


Indeed, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused widespread damage toproperty and the loss of human lives. Thousands of people wereinjured, killed, or displaced. Millions of Haitians were confined tocamps. The resultant humanitarian crisis led to the outbreak ofdiseases such as cholera. The majority of government buildings,schools, and hospitals were destroyed in the earthquake. Roads andother forms of infrastructure were also damaged. Tons of rubbleblocked access to roads and railway lines. Besides, survivors facedifficult conditions such as the inadequate supply of food and cleanwater. The country has become entirely dependent on foreign aid.


Haiti Earthquake Facts and Figures. (2016, November 17). DisastersEmergency Committee. Retrieved fromhttp://www.dec.org.uk/articles/haiti-earthquake-facts-and-figures

Jaiswal, K., &amp Wald, D. J. (2013). Estimating economic lossesfrom earthquakes using an empirical approach. Earthquake Spectra,29(1), 309-324.

Rowan, C. (2010, January 13). Retrieved fromhttp://all-geo.org/highlyallochthonous/2010/01/tectonics-of-the-haitian-earthquake/