Why were so many people killed in the Haiti Earthquake of 2010?
Haiti is a small country positioned between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean with Port au Prince as its capital. It is located in the West of the Dominican Republic and shares the island of Hispaniola. On the 12 January 2010, an earthquake struck. Haiti lies on a conservative plate boundary, with the Caribbean plate and Atlantic plate moving in the same direction, but one moving faster. The friction between the two plates was eventually released causing a magnitude 7 earthquake on the Richter scale with an epicentre 16 miles West of Port-au-Price and a shallow focus of 5 miles with aftershocks of magnitude 5 or above. The earth quake cause caused massive damage to infrastructure and affected areas such as Port-au-Prince, Petit-Goâve, Léogâne, Jacmel and other settlements in south-western Haiti. The death toll by the Haiti government is estimated to be around 31,000 people (it may not be completely accurate as many people did not have personal records and bodies were removed as soon as possible) and around 1.5 million people were left homeless. However there have been earthquakes with the same magnitude on the Richter scale that have not caused as much damage as this one, for example the San Andreas earthquake of 1989. This led on to many arguments as to why, exactly, the death toll of the Haiti Earthquake of 2010 was so large.
Haiti’s poverty is one of the main reasons for such a large death toll. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It has a GDP per capita of $819.9 with 66% of the population earning less than £1 a day and 56% of the population classed as ‘extremely poor’. Many people of Port au Prince are uneducated and work in informal jobs around the city. As well as this, the income per capita for people living in rural areas is about one third of the income of people living in urban areas and only 10% of people have electricity and less than 8 per cent have access to drinking water. This largely affected the death toll because, as many of them were uneducated, they were not prepared for a large earthquake and most did not know how to protect themselves. The destruction would have been considerably less in MEDC’s such as England as education is compulsory and everyone would know the safety precautions and how to keep the damage minimal.
Housing also played a very large part in the amount of damage done. Most houses in the urban area were self-built; made out of breeze blocks and scrap, with no foundations or rules restricting height. Having many buildings built like this along with the fact that it was mainly built on sedimentary rock contributed to the huge death toll in 2010. Buildings collapsed from no cross braces, even a few of these would have lowered the death toll immensely. As well as this 300,000 people lived in the Cite Soleil slum where there was no water or electricity supply. This meant that their houses were unstable and collapsed...