Magazine article Geographical

Haiti Quake Released 250 Years Worth of Seismic Stress

Magazine article Geographical

Haiti Quake Released 250 Years Worth of Seismic Stress

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

THE EARTHQUAKE that devastated Haiti in January was the result of the release of seismic pressure that had been building up for around 250 years, according to a scientist at the British Geological Survey (BGS).

The earthquake's initial tremor had a magnitude of 7.0, with the epicentre located about 25 kilometres from the capital, Port-au-Prince. Its proximity to the surface--around 13 kilometres--increased the intensity of the ground shaking, and the damage was compounded by a series of more than ten aftershocks with a magnitude larger than 5.0 within the first nine hours after the initial quake.

Seismic data suggest that the earthquake took place on the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault, a strike-slip fault located to the south of Haiti on the boundary of the Caribbean and North American plates. The former is moving eastward with respect to the latter at around 20 millimetres per year.

The rupture of the fault took place over a length of around 65 kilometres, and according to reports, in some places, the surface along the fault has been offset by up to a metre.

The fault has probably been the source of several large tremors in the past, the most recent taking place in 1860, according to the US Geological Survey. …

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