By Humaira Taz
January 12, 2010. The day had started off very normally for Emmanuel Boso, 21. He was at home alone in the family’s three story house in one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest areas and had just come out of the shower a few minutes before 5:00 pm, when he felt his house shaking. “The house was dancing, it was shaking and then it all came falling down,” he said.
For the next 264 hours, he lay buried alive under the rubble of the diminished building engulfed by screaming darkness, convinced that he had died and was just a ghost. On January 24, 2010 he was saved by an Israeli rescue team who had been brought to the site by Emmanuel’s mother’s consistent urges that she had heard the faint voice of her son. It was a miracle that he survived 11 days of ordeal.
However, thousands of other people were not as lucky as Emmanuel. The magnitude 7.0 quake — the most powerful to hit Haiti in a century and one that centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince, a densely populated city—caused fatalities between 50000 to 200000. At least 10 aftershocks followed, including two in the magnitude 5 range, the USGS (U. S. Geological Survey) reported.
Several reasons have been laid out to explain the massive destruction. According to Carrieann Bedwell, geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) the sediment type land of Haiti instead of a rocky type was a reason for severe ground shaking. Moreover, since the source of the earthquake was only 6.2 miles below the earth’s surface, most of the energy released when the tectonic plates moved caused the surface to shake violently. In addition, the shaking lasted for 35 seconds, long enough to easily crumble the weak infrastructure of the one of the poorest nations of the world.
The threat is not over. “So far we have monitored over 40 aftershocks ranging from 4.5 all the way up to 5.9,” Bedwell said. About 14 of those aftershocks were magnitude 5.0 or larger. The US Geological Survey said there were a 3% chance of another 7.0-magnitude earthquake and a 25% chance of a 6.0.
This crisis has brought several rescue teams and relief organizations together, forgetting their individual political conflicts. Monetary donations, food, water and medical supplies have been sent to Haiti from various aid groups, but the baking heat is reducing the longevity of these perishable supplies. Nevertheless, every kind of effort is being made from all over the world to help the devastated Haitians. However, unless the economic condition of Haiti is improved, the likelihood of such a catastrophe occurring again will remain very high. The people will be at risk living in this “hot zone” without proper earthquake-resistant buildings and structures. In addition, the mass deforestation in the region makes it vulnerable for massive land-slides.
With environmental degradation and increasing threats of global warming, natural disasters are becoming very frequent: the tsunami in 2004, Hurricane Katrina and the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, the Sichuan Earthquake in China in 2008, Black Saturday bushfires in Australia in 2009 are just to name a few. The big question looming beyond the horizon now is after the effects of this crisis have been subdued, will the nations still stand together and try to solve the global environmental and economic problems, or will they need another such crisis and the death of thousands to catch their attention again?