Why was the Haitian Earthquake so deadly?



Haiti Earthquake

Who was affected by the earthquake?

UPDATE 1 - Saturday, 16 January 2010: "We have already collected around 50,000 dead bodies," Paul Antoine Bien-Aime, Haiti's interior minister told Reuters. "We anticipate there will be between 100,000 and 200,000 dead in total, although we will never know the exact number." | Source

UPDATE 2 - Monday, 18 January 2010: The leading US general in Haiti has said it is a "reasonable assumption" that up to 200,000 people may have died. Rescuers pulled more people alive from the rubble at the weekend, but at least 70,000 people have already had burials. | Source

UPDATE 3 - Wednesday, 10 February 2010: Haiti's government says around 230,000 people died in last month's earthquake, 18,000 more than its previous estimate. The toll from the 12 January quake is approaching that of the 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed 250,000 people. | Source

  1. Why are the Haitian authorities so unsure of the death toll?



Where is Haiti and where was the epicentre?

  1. Produce a sketch map of the Caribbean - make sure you have labeled: South America, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Bahamas.

Blank Caribbean Map

Caribbean tectonics

  1. Use the two maps above to add the plate boundaries/margins to your sketch map as well as the names of the tectonic plates involved. Ensure you label the fault upon which the earthquake occurred and the location of the epicentre.

What caused the earthquake to happen?

  1. Why was Haiti struck by an earthquake?
  2. Do you disagree with any of the explanation given by the Al Jazeera meteorologist? How would you improve the explanation? What terminology do you think should be used?

When did the earthquake happen?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 04:53:10 PM at epicentre | Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 21:53:10 UTC

  1. Add the time of the earthquake to your sketch map.
  2. Do you think that the death toll was affected by the time of day that the earthquake occurred? Explain your answer fully.

Why has the death toll been so high?

  1. What physical components of the earthquake contributed to the severity of this extreme natural event?
  1. Add some of the key information from the USGS map above onto your sketch map.
HaitiNorwayNigerYour country
Gross Domestic Product per Capita
Life Expectancy at Birth
Total Fertility Rate
Literacy Rate
  1. Copy and complete the above table using a source such as the World Bank for the data.
  2. Using the data from your table describe how developed Haiti is. How might Haiti's level of development have impacted upon the death toll?
  1. How is Haiti's history a contributing factor to the death toll?
Hurricanes that have passed within 200 km of Port-au-Prince in the period since 1980
Hurricanes that have passed within 200 km of Port-au-Prince in the period since 1980
  1. What is a multiple hazard location? How might the fact that Haiti is a multiple hazard location have impacted the death toll negatively and positively?


  1. Extended Response Question: Why was the Haitian Earthquake so deadly?