Haiti and DR told to brace for powerful earthquakes

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Friday January 27, 2012 – A new study has found that Haiti and the Dominican Republic are at higher risk of future devastating earthquakes.

It said the January 2010 quake that destroyed much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, may have marked the start of a new cycle of active seismicity.

Researchers used 500 years of recorded accounts of the seismic history of Hispaniola, which the two countries share, to evaluate the intensity of past earthquakes and estimate their location and magnitudes.

They cite a 6.6 quake that occurred in 1701 followed by three more powerful earthquakes in 1751 and 1770, that preceded the 2010 quake.

“The entire Enriquillo fault system ruptured during these 70 years of earthquakes, then it shut off,” lead author William Bakun said.

“We’re certainly not suggesting that things will repeat precisely as they did in the 18th century, but history tells us that we shouldn’t be surprised if we have intervals, in the 18th century it was 50 years, of quiet before the next one really takes off.

“The consensus is that the quality of construction and building practices was not sufficient for the 2010 earthquake. We certainly know how to build buildings that can withstand that kind of an earthquake, but the construction practices that have been in place in the region don’t cut it.”

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 killed an estimated 300,000 and left many others injured.

According to the report in the February issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, “The entire Enriquillo fault system appears to be seismically active; Haiti and the Dominican Republic should prepare for future devastating earthquakes.” Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)