A massive earthquake, initially estimated at around 7.0 on the Richter scale, struck Haiti just before 5:00 p.m. local time yesterday afternoon. So far no estimates of the loss of life and the structural damages have been made, but they are expected to be heavy.
Risk modeling firm EQECAT, Inc. stated: “The event is reported to be centered about 10 miles from the capital city; Port-au-Prince and its ground motions are very severe for a large populace.
“The city of Carrefour is expected to be affected by ground motions at intensity IX (approximately 0.5g). Port-au-Prince and its environs are expected to see motions near intensity VIII (approx. 0.25 g). Current estimates are that up to 2 million people were affected by motions at this level or higher.”
Other reports have estimated that at least 3 million people, out of a population of around 10 million, have been affected by the quake, with many thousands left homeless.
According to the most recent news reports power has been knocked out in the affected region. Many buildings, including the presidential palace and the local headquarters of the UN mission in the country, have been destroyed or severely damaged. Heavy loss of life is feared and a number of people have been injured.
In describing the “tragic event,” EQECAT noted that “buildings in this region tend to be built with heavy materials (concrete, masonry) and with little or none of the lateral reinforcing needed for earthquake resistance. Therefore a number of building collapses will have occurred.
“Also, the occurrence of significant aftershocks will have exacerbated the damage. A smaller earthquake not centered in an urban area several decades ago in neighboring Dominican Republic caused several fatalities and many significant casualties. Likewise, this event will have caused several hundred fatalities.”
Concerning economic losses, EQECAT noted: “While it can be challenging to estimate exposure values in developing countries such as Haiti, EQECAT estimates the economic damages from this event to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to expected better underwriting standards than general building standards, insured buildings will generally perform better than the typical building, but this earthquake is very severe, and even well-designed buildings could expect damage from this event.”
Sources: news reports, EQECAT – www.eqecat.com
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