Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big earthquake in Haiti

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred today on Tuesday, January 12 at 21:53:09 UTC (4:53 pm EST).  Location was 18.45° N, 72.45° W - about 15 km (10 miles) southwest of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.  The depth was about 10 km (6.3 mi), a relatively shallow earthquake.

The earthquake basically occurred on a fault (the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault system) associated with the boundary between the North American plate and the Caribbean Plate.  The Caribbean plate is moving eastward by about 20 mm/yr (0.8 in/yr) relative to the North American plate (geologists would refer to this as a left-lateral strike-slip fault).  It sticks, stress builds, then it snaps and moves.

This is a bad one.  Whatever minimal infrastructure Port-Au-Prince had is now likely gone.  The death toll from the quake and its afteraffects will be horrendous.

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