Haiti Could Be in a New Earthquake Cycle, Scientists Say
The magnitude-7.0 earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, two years ago nearly demolished the city and took both residents and geologists by surprise.
Now, a team of scientists thinks they’ve identified a centuries-long pattern of earthquakes on the island of Hispaniola, which comprises both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that could portend earthquakes to come.
Although past seismic activity can’t be used to predict future quakes, the findings may help residents and those hoping to rebuild Port-au-Prince prepare for the next big one, said William Bakun, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif.
“People shouldn’t be surprised if, in the decades to come, there are more very damaging earthquakes in the region,” Bakun told OurAmazingPlanet, “and they should plan and build accordingly.”
A very detailed record
Bakun and his colleagues gathered historical records — letters, drawings, newspaper clippings and more — from residents of Hispaniola since the time that Christopher Columbus dropped anchor at the island. From descriptions of shaking and damage, Bakun was able to estimate the intensities, magnitudes and locations of historical earthquakes.
“It was in the interests of the Spanish colonies to report all damage back to the king,” Bakun explained, “because he was in the habit of supplying them funds to rebuild critical facilities, cathedrals and the like. So there are actually very detailed records of Hispaniola’s earthquakes.”
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