Possibilty of Earthquake in Port-au-Prince?
A recent article in Haiti’s Le Matin [28 September 2008] newspaper has quoted 65 year old geologist and former professor at the Geological Institute of Havana, Patrick Charles, as stating that “conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince. The inhabitants of the Haitian capital need to prepare themselves for an event which will inevitably occur…” According to him, the danger is imminent. He ads “Thank God that science has provided instruments that help predict these types of events and show how we have arrived at these conclusions.”
According to Patrick Charles, Port-au-Prince is traversed by a large fault which is part of the Enriquillo Fault Zone. The fault starts in Petionville and follows the Southern Peninsula ending at Tiburon. In 1751 and 1771, this town was completely destroyed by an earthquake. As proof to his claims, he referred to recent tremors that have occurred in Petionville, Delmas, Croix des Bouquets, and La Plaine. Minor tremors such as these usually signal a larger earthquake to come.
Haiti is no stranger to large quakes with the destruction of Palais Sans Souci near the Citadelle in 1842. It has also been 200 years since any major seismic activity has occurred in Port-au-Prince. This means that the level of built up stress and energy in the earth could one day be released resulting in an earthquake measuring 7.2 or more on the Richter Scale. This would be an event of catastrophic proportions in a city with loose building codes, and an abundance of shanty-towns built in ravines and other undesirable locations. Even the super-rich may not be immune as many own homes with great views, but precariously perched on the mountainsides above Petionville, on ground which is also susceptible to landslides.
Although city officials often discuss this, it is noted that no measures have been put into place to address the situation. Mr. Charles mentions the following devastating scenarios: A giant tsunami reaching all the way to Lake Azuéi (aka Étang Saumâtre) flooding La Plaine, and the complete destruction of Morne l’Hopital which is currently dotted with flimsy shantytowns. If we thought the recent back-to-back hurricanes were devastating, they surely will pale in comparison to a major earthquake in the densely populated Haitian capital.
Is this all scientific rhetoric, or something that Haitian officials should take seriously?
Read Article in Le Matin:
HAÏTI/ MENACE DE CATASTROPHE NATURELLE / Risque sismique élevé sur Port-au-Prince
jeudi 25 septembre 2008