October 25, 2010

Significant Risk of Another Haiti Earthquake

We talked to a lot of people about Haiti yesterday at the South West Contemporary Art Fair in Totnes, England. Everyone we spoke to knew about the outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Nobody we spoke to knew that the inhabitants of Port-au-Prince had been shaken from their sleep by a seismic shock the previous night, or the previous month.

If the mainstream news media haven't been wondering about the causes of the devastating January 12th earthquake and more recent and thankfully less violent quakes, a number of scientists certainly have. Several teams of researchers published their findings in a Haiti earthquake special issue of Nature Geoscience yesterday.  To read the articles in full you need to pay, but here are some brief extracts:

The devastating Haiti earthquake on 12 January 2010 involved slip on numerous faults. An as yet undescribed fault that runs close to the town of Léogâne was implicated.

The earthquake also caused several submarine landslides, which, together with the ground motion, resulted in the production of local tsunamis.

The fault system may still pose a significant seismic risk to the region around Port-au-Prince. The findings suggest that not all the strain accumulated over the past two-and-a-half centuries or so was released during the event in January.

Returning to the most recent humanitarian disaster to hit Haiti, the BBC reports this morning that the outbreak of cholera has now claimed over 250 lives, with a total of more than 3,000 people infected.

We had a number of conversations yesterday about clean drinking water too. Nobody we spoke to could explain to us why if the world decides it's a high enough priority it's possible to mobilize $700 billion in a week to bail out a few banks, it's somehow not possible to get cholera free water to people who need it.

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