As if Haiti hasn't been through enough already, it looks like there is still more to come. The United States Geological Survey said yesterday that while the probability of another magnitude 7.0 earthquake in the next month is low — the chance is three percent — several magnitude 5.0 or greater quakes are expected that will cause significant shaking.
The full run-down of the likelihood of quakes of given magnitudes in the nest 30 days can be found in yesterday's statement. But apart from the general finding that more quakes are on the way, there were a few interesting nuggets worth sharing.
First, the survey points out that now is a good time to look around the rest of the Caribbean region (map) and pinpoint where future quakes are likely to occur. Haiti is not the only country in harm's way. In fact, the writers of this latest report say that everywhere from offshore northern Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago are prone to damage quakes, at that the area including Martinique, Guadalupe, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands form a smaller version of the infamous Pacific "ring of fire."
Along the fault that hosted both the January 12 main quake, the magnitude 6.1 tremor this week and loads of other aftershocks, the USGS found another interesting conclusion: the eastern portion of the fault, which passes right just a hair south of Port-au-Prince doesn't appear to have slipped a bit.
In other words, it's loaded up with lots of stress. The authors write:
and examination of satellite and airborne imagery for surface rupture
suggest that the segment of the Enriquillo fault to the east of the
January-12 epicenter and directly adjacent to Port-au-Prince did not
slip appreciably in this event. This implies that the Enriquillo fault
during the reconstruction effort. (emphasis added)
What's on the horizon is a desperate need to rebuild an entire city with structures that can withstand powerful earthquakes. Given the current state of post-Katrina New Orleans, I'm not confident the U.S. is equipped to handle such a task. But with a coordinated international effort, it is possible to roll up our sleeves and volunteer, donate, or do whatever is necessary to truly help the people of Haiti "build back better" — a pre-quake refrain often echoed in the media these past ten days.
What scientists are telling us is that if we do not, history is bound to repeat itself.