Case study: earthquake

Haiti is part of a large Caribbean island called Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is located to the east of Haiti and covers over half of the island.

Cause of the earthquake

Haiti lies right on the boundary of the Caribbean and North American plates. There was slippage along a conservative plate boundary that runs through Haiti.

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti at 16:53 local time. The earthquake's epicentre was 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Most people, businesses and services were located in the capital.

Social impacts of the earthquake (effects on people)

  • 3 million people affected.
  • Over 220,000 deaths.
  • 300,000 injured.
  • 1.3 million made homeless.
  • Several hospitals collapsed.

Economic impacts of the earthquake (effects on money and jobs)

  • 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed.
  • Businesses destroyed.
  • Damage to the main clothing industry.
  • Airport and port damaged.
Man and a dog search the ruins after the Haiti earthquake

Many of the effects were immediate or primary, eg injuries from falling buildings. Some secondary effects didn't happen until many months later, eg cholera outbreaks. The effects of this earthquake were particularly bad because of the following reasons:

  • there were very few earthquake-resistant buildings
  • buildings and other structures were poorly built
  • the epicentre was near to the capital
  • there were few resources to rescue or treat injured people

Response to the earthquake

Haiti is a very poor country without the money and resources to redevelop. It is one of the least developed countries in the world with most Haitians living on $2 or less per day, about £1.30.

Because there were few earthquake-resistant buildings, the devastation was massive. Many buildings simply collapsed or were damaged beyond repair.

Primary responses

The Red Cross helping a child after the Haiti earthquake

  • Neighbouring Dominican Republic provided emergency water and medical supplies as well as heavy machinery to help with search and rescue underneath the rubble, but most people were left to dig through the rubble by hand.
  • Emergency rescue teams arrived from a number of countries, eg Iceland.
  • Medical teams began treating the injured - temporary field hospitals were set up by organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  • GIS was used to provide satellite images and maps of the area, to assist aid organisations.
  • People from around the world watched the news from Haiti on TV and through social networks. Many pledged money over their mobile phones.
  • United Nations troops and police were sent to help distribute aid and keep order.

Secondary responses

Men upon Elephants in Thailand asking people for donations to help Haiti

  • Money was pledged by organisations and governments to assist in rebuilding, but only slow progress had been made after one year.
  • After one year, there were still 1,300 camps.
  • 'Cash for work' programs are paying Haitians to clear rubble.
  • Small farmers are being supported - so crops can be grown.
  • Schools are being rebuilt.
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