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Friday, October 15, 2010

Haiti Earthquake Update: Scientists Predicted in 1999 Area Was Overdue for Massive, Catastrophic Earthquake


According to major news reports the island of Haiti has suffered catastrophic damage today due to a massive 7.0 earthquake which struck at 4:53 PM, followed by a series of strong aftershocks. In 1999, a conference was held in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, where research was presented regarding the seismic potential in the Haiti region and where scientists concluded the Haiti region was overdue for a massive catastrophic earthquake which would strike without warning. The following is a summary of the conference and its findings:

In any event, the data show that the plate border dynamics are quite significant and that the two major faults crossing the island, one to the north and the other in the south – which runs the entire Haitian peninsula – are both considered quite dangerous due to the time elapsed since the last major earthquake. The Septentrional fault (the northern system) is comparable to the San Andreas Fault system in California and has not released energy in over 800 years which means that approximately 4 to 8 meters of left lateral slippage has already accumulated and should it be released, could register 8.0 or higher on the Richter Scale (with no forewarning). The soil conditions on the island have evidenced severe liquefaction which is a considerable threat to infrastructure such as dams, bridges and highways and particularly the Artibonito watershed on the Haitian-Dominican border.

According to the USGS the Haiti region continues to be hit by a series of aftershocks after the massive 7.0 that struck at 4:53 PM. The location of the 7.0:

15 km (10 miles) SW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
140 km (90 miles) E of Les Cayes, Haiti
145 km (90 miles) WNW of Barahona, Dominican Republic

The estimated depth of the quake: 6.2 miles

Since the 7.0 earthquake the Haiti region has had a total of 13 aftershocks with 7 measuring over 5.0. All aftershocks had an estimated depth of 6.2 miles.

The largest, 5.9, struck 7 minutes later, or 5:00 PM, 35 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, followed by a 5.5 aftershock, 12 minutes later at 5:12, 15 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti.

-At 6:12 PM, a 5.1 aftershock 20 miles SW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 6:27 PM, a 4.8 aftershock 30 miles W of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 6:35 PM, a 4.5 aftershock 30 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 6:37 PM, a 4.5 aftershock 35 miles W of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 7:23 PM, a 4.8 aftershock 25 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 7:43 PM, a 5.0 aftershock 10 miles W of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 7:59 PM, a 5.2 aftershock 45 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 8:05 PM, a 4.6 aftershock 20 miles W of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 8:16 PM, a 5.1 aftershock 35 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

-At 8:32 PM, a 5.3 aftershock 40 miles WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

Tetonic Summary

The January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake occurred in the boundary region separating the Caribbean plate and the North America plate. This plate boundary is dominated by left-lateral strike slip motion and compression, and accommodates about 20 mm/y slip, with the Caribbean plate moving eastward with respect to the North America plate.

Haiti occupies the western part of the island of Hispaniola, one of the Greater Antilles islands, situated between Puerto Rico and Cuba. At the longitude of the January 12 earthquake, motion between the Caribbean and North American plates is partitioned between two major east-west trending, strike-slip fault systems — the Septentrional fault system in northern Haiti and the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault system in southern Haiti.

The location and focal mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with the event having occurred as left-lateral strike slip faulting on the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault system. This fault system accommodates about 7 mm/y, nearly half the overall motion between the Caribbean plate and North America plate.
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