UPDATE: The Anchoress has updates on relief efforts currently underway. Click HERE for more details.
Dear Readers: A large earthquake has occurred around the Caribbean island of Haiti. It was a 7.0 Magnitude, and its epicenter was inland and only 10 miles from the capital Port-au-Prince. A tsunami watch is in effect for the Caribbean. Details are in the following links:
More details are in this report: Many casualties expected after big quake in Haiti.
The largest earthquake ever recorded in the area rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and damaging other buildings. An aid official described “total disaster and chaos.”
Communications were widely disrupted, making it impossible to get a clear picture of damage as powerful aftershocks shook a desperately poor country where many buildings are flimsy. Electricity was out in some places.
Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in the capital of Port-au-Prince, told U.S. colleagues before phone service failed that “there must be thousands of people dead,” according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.
“He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince,” Fajardo said from the group’s offices in Maryland.
The full extent of the damage will be unknown for several days. However, the scope of the tragedy is unimaginable. The following lists what is known now; the sun has set and with power outages, more will be learned tomorrow when the damage is visible.
* A hospital has collapsed.
* UN Installations are destroyed.
* Buildings continue to crumble in the aftershocks.
Today’s earthquake is triggered by movement along the boundary between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates. A Science News report in 2005 stated there is a high risk of tsunamis in the Northern Caribbean.
The researchers estimate that with increased populations, especially in coastal areas, some 35.5 million people are now at risk should another strong tsunami hit the northern Caribbean. They note that in addition to their own studies of fault lines along the North American and Caribbean plate boundary, other researchers have studied the risk to the northern Caribbean from submarine landslides, both in the region and as far away as the Canary Islands. In the pre-1492 period, tsunamis greater than any in the past 500 years may have occurred, the scientists say, based on their study of underwater landslides off the north coast of Puerto Rico
Don Blakeman, an analyst at the USGS in Golden, Colorado, said such a strong quake carried the potential for widespread damage.
“I think we are going to see substantial damage and casualties,” he said.
The earthquake’s size and proximity to populated Port-Au-Prince likely caused widespread casualties and structural damage, added quake expert Tom Jordan at the University of Southern California.
“It’s going to be a real killer,” he said.
The temblor appeared to have occurred along a strike-slip fault, where one side of a vertical fault slips horizontally past the other, Jordan said.
“Whenever something like this happens, you just hope for the best,” he said. “The damage caused by this earthquake is not going to be pretty.”
Minor earthquakes are common in the Caribbean, but there has not been a major one in Haiti in 16 years. The country of about 9 million people, most of them desperately poor, has struggled with political instability and has no real construction standards. In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.
The historical records indicate that while rare, tsunamis do occur in the region.
In regards to the first category, there are only two recorded instances of teletsunamis striking the Caribbean region, once in 1755, and again in 1761. These two tsunamis were generated by large, and well documented earthquakes centered near Lisbon, Portugal. What records exist regarding the effects of these two events on locations in the Caribbean region are very sparse. The tsunami of 1755, reportedly produced a maximum runup of 7 meters on the island of Saba, 3.6 meters at Antigua, and 4.5 meters at St. Martin; but was not reported at any other Caribbean locations. The tsunami of 1761, was reported only at Barbados with a runup of 1.2 meters.
There are several historical reports of tsunamis generated within the Caribbean region. Most of these resulted from seismic activity in the northwestern portion of the Caribbean, near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Of these Caribbean events there are two which stand out as particularly destructive, the Virgin Island tsunami of 1867, and 1918 Puerto Rico tsunami. For more information on either of these events, please select the location of interest below, or click on the respective countries on the map above.
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