A More Devastating Earthquake is Likely in Haiti soon

According to U.S. scientist Jian Lin, the January earthquake in Haiti increased stresses on nearby faults. As a result, it increases the likelihood of another major earthquake in Haiti.


Jian Lin, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, was studying a fault system on the island of Hispaniola (home to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She presented his team's findings on May 3 at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

Scientist Lin and his colleagues, who had been measuring the stresses on fault systems in the area, were well aware of the potential for a major earthquake in Haiti.

According to her team, the fault system that runs through Hispaniola and other parts of the Caribbean is building up stress every year, every month, every day, basically.

That stress can build up to the point where it overwhelms the grip of the plates against each other and the fault snaps, shifting the surrounding earth with potentially deadly consequences.

That increased stress could increase the likelihood of one of these other fault sections suddenly snapping and causing another earthquake. In the case of the section to the east, this is of "major concern," because the epicenter from a quake along this portion of the fault could be as close as 3 miles from Port-au-Prince -- the Jan. 12 quake was 9 miles from the Haitian capital.

But when an earthquake might occur on these sections and how big it might be are things scientists can't predict.

Lin hopes that more researchers will monitor and study the faults around Haiti to better understand the risks associated with them, and that the continued risk of earthquakes can be better communicated to the Haitian public. He said that scientists and the government, without causing any public panic, need to communicate that "the risk of an earthquake is not over."

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Read more: Earthquake, 2010 Haiti earthquake, Disaster

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