The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 caused widespread damage to a country already suffering from poor conditions and a number of catastrophic events in previous years. Measuring a massive 7.0 on the Richter Scale, the Haiti earthquake was responsible for causing the death of more than 300,000 people making it one of the deadliest earthquakes in history. Moreover, it resulted in 1.5 million Haitians becoming instantly homeless. The 2010 Haiti earthquake also triggered a number of aftershocks and a tsunami that caused further death and destruction. To help you understand a bit more about the cause and effect of that quake, as well as the death toll and extent of the damage caused, here are 10 interesting facts about the 2010 Haiti earthquake.


#1 Abject poverty plagued Haiti before the earthquake

Life in Haiti had been extremely difficult for most Haitians for many decades. In fact, the country has suffered from problem-after-problem for the majority of its history that spans 200 years. In spite of some increase in wealth during the immediate pre-earthquake days, Haiti is the poorest country in all of the Americas. It was actually 145th out of 169 in the UN Human Development Index and that is the Western Hemisphere’s absolute lowest. Prior to January, 2010, more than 70 percent of Haitians had to live on less than an average of 66 cents a day. Not only that but 86 percent of the residents of Port au Prince were already forced to live in slum conditions. The majority of them were living in crowded poorly-constructed concrete buildings.

UN Human Development Index
Haiti on the UN Human Development Index


#2 There were numerous previous catastrophic events in Haiti

Haiti had seen numerous natural disasters previously. Throughout the history of the island, it had been hit by floods, hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes, torrential rains and tropical storms. The Haitian hurricane season runs from June through November and it’s usually quite active. Earthquakes hit Haiti in 1684, 1691, 1751, 1816, 1887, 1904, 1909, 1952, 1954, 1964, 1976 and 1980. However, no sooner did it seem like the quakes were letting up somewhat, floods, rain, and hurricanes took over the job of devastating the island. In fact, in the year 2008 alone, Haiti was hit by one tropical storm and three hurricanes. The result was a death toll of 800.

Haiti Hurricane Season
Life in Haiti during the unforgiving Hurricane Season


#3 The 2010 earthquake was a massive 7.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale

On January 12, 2010, at 16:53:10 EST, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti near the capital city of Port au Prince. The human devastation included 3,500,000 people having been directly affected by the quake. The entire area’s vital infrastructure, which was sorely needed for responding to the disastrous quake, was either completely destroyed or severely damaged, including all of the capital city’s hospitals; all transport facilities from land to air and sea; and all communications systems.

Richter Scale explanation
Explanation of the Richter Scale


#4 Its epicenter was near the town of Léogâne

The epicenter of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was approximately 16 miles (25 kilometers) west of Haiti’s capital city near the town of Leogane. The quake was strong enough to be felt in a number of surrounding regions and countries, including Cuba where it measured MM III in Guantánamo; Jamaica measuring MM II in Kingston; Venezuela measuring MM II in Caracas; Puerto Rico measuring between MM II–III in San Juan, and the Dominican Republic registering MM III in Santo Domingo.

2010 Haiti Earthquake Epicenter
The Epicenter of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake


#5 The 2010 Haiti Earthquake caused 316,000 deaths

The immediate death toll from the quake is estimated to be 220,000. In addition, more than 300,000 people suffered serious injuries. Immediately following the quake, all of the morgue facilities in Port-au-Prince became overwhelmed and by January 14th, more than a thousand bodies lined the streets. Witnesses reported that the acrid stench of the bodies hung in the air everywhere. Many were buried in mass graves and many others were burned. In some places, above-ground tombs had to be forced open to allow for stacking bodies inside of them. On January 12, 2011 (the first anniversary of the quake), Haiti’s Prime Minister announced that the quake’s death toll had reached more than 316,000 people. If this is true, this would make the 2010 Haiti earthquake one of the five deadliest earthquakes in recorded history.


#6 The city that was the most affected by the quake was Port Au Prince

Although property damage is never anywhere near as devastating as the human cost of a disaster, the capital city of Port au Prince suffered greatly. More than 188,383 homes were terribly damaged with 105,000 of them were completely destroyed. That’s a grand total of 293,383 homes. This resulted in 1.5 million Haitians becoming instantly homeless. Following the quake, 19 million cubic meters of debris and rubble littered the city of Port au Prince. Those piles of rubble were actually large enough in total for filling a string of end-to-end shipping containers stretching all the way from London to Beirut.

2010 Haiti Earthquake collapsed building
Collapsed building in Port Au Prince after the 2010 Earthquake


#7 It was caused by a rupture in the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault System

The 2010 Haitian quake struck at a depth of 8.1 miles (13 km) on the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault System’s blind thrust faults. A blind thrust fault occurs when the fault plane becomes terminated prior to reaching the surface of the earth. Due to the fact that there is no surface evidence, these faults often escape detection until they’ve ruptured. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was caused by the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault rupturing. This undetected blind thrust fault was locked for 250 years, during which time it gathered a great deal of stress. There wasn’t any evidence of surface rupture, however, and based on geological, seismological and ground deformation data, the 2010 Haiti earthquake didn’t involve any serious lateral slip along the main fault. The quake’s overall shaking damage was higher in severity than other similar magnitude quakes because of its shallow depth. A May 2010 study suggests that the rupturing process of the quake could involve slip on several blind thrust faults on or near the main Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone. This fact suggests that this particular seismic event was only partially able to relieve centuries of left-lateral strain that had accumulated on a small portion of that plate-boundary system.

Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone
Map showing regional tectonic setting of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone


#8 Strong aftershocks hit the area within hours of the initial quake

Secondary shocks (aftershocks) hit Haiti during the hours following the quake and the magnitudes ranged from 5.0 to 5.9. By January 24, more than 52 aftershocks that measured at least 4.5 or greater on the Richter scale were recorded. In fact, within the initial nine hours following the main quake, there were 32 aftershocks of 4.2 magnitude or greater. Of these aftershocks, 12 measured at 5.0 magnitude or greater. Then, on January 20 at 06:03 local time (11:03 UTC), the strongest aftershock was felt and it measured 5.9. According to the USGS, the epicenter was approximately 35 miles (56 km) WSW of the city of Port-au-Prince, right under Petit-Goâve on the Haitian coast.

2010 Haiti Earthquake National Palace ruins
Ruins of the National Palace after the 2010 Earthquake


#9 A resultant tsunami hit a Haitian beach two weeks later

A tsunami warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center immediately following the initial quake. Then it was canceled. However, almost two weeks later, reports were received of a localized tsunami hitting the beach in a small fishing town called Petit Paradis. The tsunami actually struck there right after the earthquake and could have been the direct result of an underwater slide. During the tsunami, three or more people were swept out to sea and reported dead.

2010 Haiti Earthquake destroyed homes
Destroyed homes and rubble in Haiti after the 2010 Earthquake


#10 There were further losses in & around the capital city following the quake

The additional losses continued in the days and weeks following the quake and included 4,000 local schools that sustained damage or were completely destroyed. They represented 80 percent of the capital city’s schools as well as 60 percent of those in both the West and South Departments. In addition, 25 percent of the of Port Au Prince civil servants lost their lives. A massive 60 percent of all of the government and administrative buildings were destroyed. More than 600,000 people had to leave their home area in Port-au-Prince. The majority of them had to stay with host families. Camps became home to one and a half million people at the peak of the problem. The damages to date from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti have totaled approximately $7.8 billion.


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