The History of Earthquake in Haiti

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, ranks 149th among 182 countries in the Human Development Index Table. It is a victim of frequent ruthless earthquakes.

The island of Hispaniola is a seismically active region and has a long history of destructive earthquakes. As per recorded evidence, the first major earthquake hit Haiti in 1564. It destroyed Concepción de la Vega and Santiago de los Caballeros in Dominican Republic. A major tremor in 18th October, 1751, spared only one masonry building in the capital city of Port-au Prince. The city again experienced a 7.5 magnitude tremor on 3rd June, 1770, that took 200 lives. The other noticeable earthquakes in Haiti include:

  • 1783 in Santiago (partially destroyed Santiago church),
  • 7th May 1842 (destroyed Cap-Haitien and other towns in the north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and took over 10,000 lives),
  • 4th August 1946 Dominican Republic earthquake (this catastrophic 8.0-magnitude quake shook Haiti horrifically, produced tsunami and killed 1,600 people).

Recently, on 12th January 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti again which had epicenter near Léogâne, approximately 16 miles (25 km) west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of 8.1 miles (13 km) with a recorded thirty three aftershocks. Fourteen of these aftershocks had magnitude between 5.0 and 5.9. As per the estimate of International Red Cross, 3 million people were affected. As per Haitian government report 220,000 to 316,000 people were killed, 300,000 injured, and an estimated 1,000,000 were homeless, 30,000 commercial buildings had been collapsed.

Vital disaster management infrastructures and communication systems of the country necessary to respond to the disaster was severely destroyed or damaged. By January 24th, it had further19 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater. However, as per some agencies report, the real death toll ranges between 100,000 and 159,000. Haitian government’s figures were deliberately inflated.

The tremor caused major damage in several well populated settlements in the region. Many notable landmarks were severally damaged or destroyed. Many countries responded on humanitarian ground, medical care and sanitation came on the top of priorities.