Haiti Earthquake Case Study Led Co Laminators


Haiti is a small island located in the Caribbean, South East of the USA and East of Cuba.  Its capital city is Port-au-Prince.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


The earthquake was caused by the North American Plate sliding past the Caribbean Plate at a conservative plate margin.  Both plates move in the same direction, but one moves faster than the other.  The pressure that was built up because of the friction between the 2 plates was eventually released causing a magnitude 7 earthquake on the Richter Scale with an epicentre 16 miles West of Port-au-Prince and a shallow focus of 5 miles.  The earthquake struck at 16:53 (4:53pm) local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010.


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Primary (caused directly by the earthquake)

Secondary (result from primary effects)

316,000 people were killed and 1 million people were made homeless.  3 million people were affected by the earthquake1 in 5 people lost their jobs because so many buildings were destroyed.  Haiti’s largest industry, clothing was one of the worst affected
250,000 homes and 30,000 other buildings, including the President’s Palace and 60% of government buildings, were either destroyed or badly damagedThe large number of deaths meant that hospitals and morgues became full and bodies then had to be piled up on the streets
Transport and communication links were also badly damaged by the earthquakeThe large number of bodies meant that diseases, especially cholera, became a serious problem
Hospitals (50+) and schools (1,300+) were badly damaged, as was the airport’s control towerIt was difficult getting aid into the area because of issues at the airport and generally poor management of the situation
The main prison was destroyed and 4,000 inmates escapedPeople were squashed into shanty towns or onto the streets because their homes had been destroyed leading to poor sanitation and health, and looting became a real problem


Development Indicator


GDP per capita (average income)$1,200 per person each year
People living in poverty80% of people live on $2 or less per day
Life expectancy62 years old
People per doctor0.25 doctors per 1,000 people
Adult literacy rate53% over 15 years old can read/write
Access to clean water46% of people have access to clean water


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Short Term

Long Term

$100 million in aid given by the USA and $330 million by the European Union98% of the rubble on the roads hadn’t been cleared restricting aid access
810,000 people placed in aid camps1 million people still without houses after 1 year so still have to live in aid camps
115,000 tents and 1,000,000+ tarpaulin shelters providedSupport for people without jobs, which equates to nearly 70% of the population, through cash/food-for-work projects
Healthcare supplies provided to limit diseaseTemporary schools created and new teachers trainee
Lack of immediate aid through poor planning, management and access meant that people had to try and rescue each otherWater and sanitation eventually supplied for 1.7 million people
4.3 million people provided with food rations in the weeks following the earthquake

Useful Documents

Primary and secondary effects of the Haiti earthquake


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Case study: earthquake

Haiti is part of a large Caribbean island called Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is located to the east of Haiti and covers over half of the island.

Cause of the earthquake

Haiti lies right on the boundary [boundary: The region where two or more tectonic plates meet. It is a zone of intense seismic activity. ]  of the Caribbean and North American plates. There was slippage along a conservative plate boundary [conservative plate boundary: Areas between two crustal plates that are moving past each other in opposite directions or at different speeds. ]  that runs through Haiti.

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti at 16:53 local time. The earthquake’s epicentre was 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Most people, businesses and services were located in the capital.

Social impacts of the earthquake (effects on people)

  • 3 million people affected.

  • Over 220,000 deaths.

  • 300,000 injured.

  • 1.3 million made homeless.

  • Several hospitals collapsed.

Economic impacts of the earthquake (effects on money and jobs)

  • 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed.

  • Businesses destroyed.

  • Damage to the main clothing industry.

  • Airport and port damaged.

Many of the effects were immediate or primary, eg injuries from falling buildings. Some secondary effects didn’t happen until many months later, eg cholera outbreaks. The effects of this earthquake were particularly bad because of the following reasons:

  • There were very few earthquake-resistant buildings.

  • Buildings and other structures were poorly built.

  • The epicentre [epicentre: The point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. ]  was near to the capital.

  • There were few resources to rescue or treat injured people.

Response to the earthquake

Haiti is a very poor country without the money and resources [resource: Anything that is useful to people. ]  to redevelop. It is one of the least developed countries in the world with most Haitians living on $2 or less per day, about £1.30.

Because there were few earthquake-resistant buildings [earthquake resistant buildings: Building designs which help to minimise the effect of earthquakes.] , the devastation was massive. Many buildings simply collapsed or were damaged beyond repair.

Primary responses

  • Neighbouring Dominican Republic provided emergency water and medical supplies as well as heavy machinery to help with search and rescue underneath the rubble, but most people were left to dig through the rubble by hand.

  • Emergency rescue teams arrived from a number of countries, eg Iceland.

  • Medical teams began treating the injured – temporary field hospitals were set up by organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

  • GIS [GIS: Geographical Information System. Electronic maps with layers added to display information about the area.]  was used to provide satellite images and maps of the area, to assist aid organisations.

  • People from around the world watched the news from Haiti on TV and through social networks. Many pledged money over their mobile phones.

  • United Nations troops and police were sent to help distribute aid [aid: The giving of resources or money from one country or donor to another.]  and keep order.

Secondary responses

  • Money was pledged by organisations and governments to assist in rebuilding, but only slow progress had been made after one year.

  • After one year, there were still 1,300 camps.

  • ‘Cash for work’ programs are paying Haitians to clear rubble.

  • Small farmers are being supported – so crops can be grown.

  • Schools are being rebuilt.

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