A quake expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
has said that while the 7.0 magnitude Haiti earthquake was “large
but not huge,” there were three factors that made it particularly
was centered just 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Port au
Prince; second, the quake was shallow-only about 10-15 kilometres
below the land’s surface; third, many homes and buildings in the
economically poor country were not built to withstand such a force
and collapsed or crumbled,” said Jian Lin, a WHOI senior scientist
in geology and geophysics.
these circumstances made the Jan. 12 earthquake a worst-case
scenario. It should be a wake-up call for the entire Caribbean,” Lin
struck on a 50-60-km stretch of the more than 500-km-long Enriquillo-Plantain
Garden Fault, which runs generally east-west through Haiti, to the
Dominican Republic to the east and Jamaica to the west.
It is a
“strike-slip” fault, according to the U.S. Geological Survey,
meaning the plates on either side of the fault line were sliding in
case, the Caribbean Plate south of the fault line was sliding east
and the smaller Gonvave Platelet north of the fault was sliding
But most of
the time, the earth’s plates do not slide smoothly past one another.
They stick in one spot for perhaps years or hundreds of years, until
enough pressure builds along the fault and the landmasses suddenly
jerk forward to relieve the pressure, releasing massive amounts of
energy throughout the surrounding area.
more familiar, scenario exists along California’s San Andreas Fault.