Where: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
January 28, 2010 : A massive earthquake hit the Caribbean nation of Haiti* on January 12, 2010. It’s magnitude was 7.0 on the Richter scale**. The earthquake struck close to the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The first tremors destroyed most of the city. Two strong aftershocks followed almost immediately. In what is one of the most devastating natural disasters in history around 200,000 people have died. To put that in context consider that the January 2001 earthquake that devastated the western Indian state of Gujarat killed around 20,000 people and the hurricane “Katrina” killed 1,836 people.
Haiti’s worst earthquake in two centuries has shattered a nation which is already battling poverty, unemployment and political instability. The international aid agency Red Cross says that at least 3 million people have been affected — that is, a third of the country’s population. With more and more bodies being pulled out of the ruins, it may never be possible to know exactly how many people lost their lives.
In the two weeks following the earthquake, there have been at least 50 aftershocks (tremors). On January 24, Haiti’s government declared the search and rescue operations over. More than 130 people were pulled out alive by rescue teams in the capital, but many more were rescued by ordinary citizens. One man surfaced alive after being trapped for 14 days.
A large number of American entertainers performed on ‘Hope for Haiti Now’, a worldwide television charity fund raiser. Aid has been flowing into the country from foreign governments, and also from international agencies like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. This includes food supplies, bottled water, medicine and tents. Haitian President Mr.Rene Preval appealed for more tents for those who have been left homeless. As many as 200,000 tents will be needed before the start of the rainy season in May.
While the government will focus on rebuilding and reconstruction efforts, doctors and health officials are concerned about the spread of disease. Poor hygienic conditions at overcrowded temporary shelters and the shortage of clean water could lead to the spread of epidemics.
*Haiti is a North American country in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises half of the island of Hispaniola. It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and it has a history of violence and political instability. The United Nations Peacekeeping forces are stationed here to maintain law and order.
**The magnitude of earthquakes is usually measured on the Richter scale. It gives the measure of the largest seismic wave recorded for the earthquake. The word seismic means ’caused by an earthquake or earth vibration’. The Richter magnitudes are based on a logarithmic scale, or base 10. This means that for each whole number you go up on the scale, the intensity of the earthquake goes up ten times.