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Haiti Struck by Massive Earthquake

Port-Au_Prince map The Caribbean nation of Haiti has been struck by a massive earthquake, which the Red Cross estimates could affect up to 3 million people. According to the US Geological Survey, the tremor hit at 2153 GMT on Tuesday 12 January, about 10 miles south-west of Port-au-Prince.

The earthquake is the first to affect this area for over 200 years. It has occurred along the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system situated along the edge of the Caribbean Plate, which is moving eastwards into the Atlantic, against the advancing Atlantic seafloor.

At magnitude 7, the quake is moderately severe. However, its effects were amplified because the focus was shallow – around 10km – meaning that very little of the energy released was absorbed by the overlying rocks, and so was able to cause damage at surface.

A series of sustained aftershocks have hampered rescue attempts, as well as causing further damage to buildings. There is a possibility that the action will move to another stretch of the same fault, possibly along the northern coast of neighbouring Dominican Republic and Jamaica. There is no way to predict when this might happen, however – it could be hundreds of years away.

A precautionary tsunami alert was issued directly after the quake, but has now been lifted.

Further information about the earthquake can be obtained from the British Geological Survey’s Seismic Hazards Team in Edinburgh.

Telephone: 0131 667 1000
Email: [email protected].