2010 Haiti earthquake

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2010 Haiti earthquake
2010 Haiti earthquake (Haiti)
Magnitude 7.0  M W
epicenter 18 ° 26 '35 "  N , 72 ° 34' 16"  W Coordinates: 18 ° 26 '35 "  N , 72 ° 34' 16"  W.
country Haiti

Epicenter of the earthquake

The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a major earthquake that occurred on January 12, 2010 at 21:53  UTC (4:53 p.m. local time ). The epicenter was about 25 kilometers west-southwest of the capital Haiti , Port-au-Prince , the hypocenter about 13 kilometers below. The strength of the earthquake was measured by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as 7.0 M w on the moment magnitude scale .

A recording and identification of the victims mostly did not take place due to the chaotic conditions, so that the number of victims can only be estimated. In the months after the quake, estimates by various organizations ranged between 220,000 and 500,000 fatalities. Prime Minister Bellerive concluded a year after the quake that the death toll stood at around 316,000. This is the heaviest quake in the history of North and South America and the world's most devastating quake of the 21st century. Over 310,000 other people were injured and an estimated 1.85 million people were left homeless. A total of around 3.2 million people, i.e. a third of the population of Haiti, are affected by the natural disaster. The Haitian government estimates that the earthquake destroyed 250,000 homes and 30,000 businesses. The economic damage caused is estimated at around 7.8 billion US dollars, the equivalent of 5.4 billion euros. This amount exceeds the country's annual gross domestic product .

Affected regions

The départements Ouest (west; with the capital Port-au-Prince), Sud-Est (south-east) and Nippes (on the Tiburon peninsula, north coast) were hardest hit by the earthquake . They are located in the south of the country on the Tiburon Peninsula on the Gulf of Gonâve and in the south-eastern part of the country, the border region with the Dominican Republic . In relation to the island of Hispaniola , this is the southwestern part of the island.

The hardest hit city was Léogâne , 30 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince with a degree of destruction of 90 percent. However, because of their size, the capital Port-au-Prince and its suburbs had the highest number of fatalities and most of the victims of the quake from loss of accommodation and injuries.

Tectonic background

Location of the Caribbean plate

The January 12, 2010 earthquake struck the border region between the Caribbean and North American plates . This plate boundary is dominated by a left-sided sheet displacement , at which the plates not only slide past each other due to the irregular course of the boundary, but are also compressed in areas. The plates move here by about 20 millimeters annually, with the Caribbean plate moving eastwards in relation to the North American plate.

The green line shows the EPG fault on the Tiburon Peninsula

Haiti is located in the western part of the island of Hispaniola between Puerto Rico and Cuba . In the area of the longitude of the earthquake of January 12, the motion between the plates between two larger current from west to east is turmoil divided - the Septentrional Fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain-Garden Fault ( Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault Zone , EPGFZ) in the south of the island. The location and focus mechanism of the earthquake can be explained by the lateral shift at the EPGFZ. At this fault there is an average annual movement of about 7 millimeters, which, according to the USGS experts, is probably the reason for the great historical earthquakes in 1860, 1770, 1761, 1751, 1684, 1673 and 1618 - confirmatory field studies for this lie not before. The earthquake of 1946 with a magnitude of 8.0 occurred on the more northerly fault .

In a research paper from 2008, due to the tectonic tensions that had built up since the last severe earthquake at the Enriquillo Plantain Garden Fault in the south of the Dominican Republic in 1751, a single quake was an expected strength of 7.2 magnitudes.

The section of the fault where the last earthquake of 1751 occurred had been remarkably calm for 40 years, typical of a fully blocked fault.

In fact, the two plate edges have now shifted around two meters from each other and released the predicted energy very precisely.

Course of the quake

Map of the US Geological Survey on the earthquake
Course of the main and aftershocks with magnitudes above 4.0 according to the USGS data

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the main quake occurred on Tuesday, January 12, at 4:53:10 p.m. local time (9:53 p.m. UTC). The hypocenter of the earthquake was about 25 kilometers west-southwest of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince at a depth of about 13 kilometers and had a magnitude of 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale (according to the USGS). The Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam determined a magnitude of 7.2 and a depth of 17 kilometers. The earthquake lasted a minute.

Due to the flat location of the earthquake center, the acceleration in the epicenter was well above the acceleration due to gravity , so that large parts of the buildings were destroyed and cars were thrown into the air. The earthquake was also felt in the Dominican Republic, but did not cause any major damage there. Several aftershocks with a magnitude of up to 6.1 followed. As a precautionary measure, a tsunami warning was issued for Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic ten minutes after the main quake , but was lifted after a few hours. At least two tsunamis, probably triggered by submarine landslides, hit the coasts of Haiti on the bay of Port-au-Prince and on the south coast, with the wave height being said to have been up to 3 m.

The effects of the earthquake were felt primarily in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands , in southeastern Cuba and in eastern Jamaica, as well as in parts of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas , but also in Tampa ( Florida ) and Caracas ( Venezuela ) noticeable.

Major and stronger aftershocks
Time ( UTC ) Magnitude Coordinates Depth in km
January 12, 2010, 9:53:11 pm 7.0 18.37 ° N, 72.55 ° W 17th
January 12, 2010, 10:42 pm 5.6 18.37 ° N, 72.78 ° W 14th
January 12, 2010, 10:12:04 p.m. 5.7 18.39 ° N, 72.55 ° W 10
January 12, 2010, 11:12:05 pm 5.9 18.41 ° N, 72.44 ° W 10
January 20, 2010, 11:03:45 am 6.1 18.42 ° N, 72.85 ° W 16
  1. 5.5 magnitudes
    In the course of January 13, 2010 nine further aftershocks with magnitudes above 5.0 occurred.
    The USGS is for the quake on 12 January 2010 23:12 notwithstanding a strength of 5.3 magnitude on
    and lists for the January 13, 2010 5:02 stronger aftershock of 5.8 magnitude.


Destruction at the intersection of Rue Pavée and Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in the center of Port-au-Prince (looking west)
Christopher Hotel , former UN headquarters
Aerial view of earthquake damage in Léogâne
Destroyed cathedral

According to an assessment by the United Nations, the initial situation was more devastating than that of the 2004 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean due to a lack of infrastructure .

In Port-au-Prince itself, in addition to thousands of other buildings, the Catholic Cathedral of Port-au-Prince , in the collapse of which the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot , was killed, the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral, and destroyed a former children's hospital.

Among the victims are members of the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSTAH . The exact number of these was unclear in mid-January 2010, but the United Nations was able to confirm 84 deaths by January 29, including three German citizens, as well as 30 injured and 44 still missing. Blue helmet soldiers and police officers from over a dozen countries as well as dozens of civilian employees were affected. Already in the first days after the quake it became known that the head of the mission and UN special envoy for Haiti, Hédi Annabi ( Tunisia ) and his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa ( Brazil ) and the head of the international police units, Doug Coates ( Royal Canadian Mounted Police ) who were killed in the collapse of the five-story Christopher Hotel , the headquarters of the peacekeeping mission.

The Haitian presidential palace has also largely collapsed ; the president of the country, René Préval , survived the quake despite the destruction of the upper floors of the building. Several politicians were also among the fatalities, including the opposition leader Michel Gaillard , the Catholic medic Zilda Arns and the writer Georges Anglade .

Rescuing those buried and providing rapid assistance to the population immediately after the quake were made more difficult by several factors. The earthquake happened an hour before dark, and electricity and telephone networks went down. There were no preparedness plans for such a disaster in Haiti, and the medical infrastructure was either affected by the destruction or overwhelmed by the need for assistance. Determining the exact number of victims proves difficult because many of the victims were not identified and, without an exact count, were buried in mass graves or buried on the spot by their relatives.

According to the ICRC , up to three million people have been affected by the earthquake, equivalent to a third of Haiti's population.

The aid organization Doctors Without Borders announced in Germany that its trauma clinic in Port-au-Prince had been badly damaged. According to eyewitness reports, immediately after the earthquake, a cloud of dust lay over the capital and thousands of buildings had collapsed. The slums of the megacity were badly hit , as most of the slopes on which the huts are located have slipped. The conditions in the capital were catastrophic and chaotic after the quake. Cable connections were broken, and when searching for people who had been buried, the helpers usually only had their bare hands at their disposal.

Immediate consequences

Due to the desolate health system, there was a threat of insufficient care for the injured, and urgently needed medication was also in short supply.

Internal security in the crisis region collapsed. There was violence and looting. Numerous children left the country after the quake. The Haitian authorities assume that child trafficking has increased significantly .

The parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of February in Haiti have been postponed until further notice as an election campaign cannot take place. The offices of the election commission were also destroyed by the quake and election papers were spilled.

Relief efforts

US relief supplies arrive at Port-au-Prince airport .

Immediately after the earthquake, international aid measures began for the affected population. With this extent of destruction, the state of Haiti was unable to organize aid workers itself.

The first nation to provide relief was the neighboring country, the Dominican Republic , with eight mobile clinics and eight ambulances, medical staff and equipment in Port-au-Prince as of the early hours of January 13th. Likewise, all health facilities along the border have been equipped to accommodate the injured. As an immediate measure, the dispatch of food rations, mattresses and blankets was ordered. President Leonel Fernández also approved the daily distribution of 300,000 rations of uncooked and 10,000 rations of warm meals, which were served in ten mobile kitchens. 40 construction machines such as excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks were also sent to Port-au-Prince for clearing work and eight 7,500 l cistern wagons were used to supply the population with water. Immigration authorities and the armed forces have been instructed to do their best to channel aid and assistance to the victims. For example, military helicopters were used to transport the injured. To restore telecommunication, 20 technicians from the Instituto Dominicano de las Telecomunicaciones (Indotel) worked in cooperation with various private providers.

On January 19, the United Nations Security Council decided to increase the peacekeeping mission by 3,500 people, made up of soldiers and police officers.

Aircraft with relief supplies are unloaded at the airport, January 17, 2010

US President Barack Obama asked his predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to raise private funds for US emergency aid; for the organization of military aid he used PK Ken Keen . The US government and the World Bank each released $ 100 million in grants. The United States put around 6,000 soldiers and several ships loaded with relief supplies into the crisis area. The name of the US operations is Unified Response.

The United States sent a large number of aid workers from its armed forces, including a United States Navy hospital ship , the USNS Comfort , the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other ships that supported the rescue work, in particular with helicopters. On March 24th, the USS Bataan (LHD-5), the last ship on the US Navy, left Haiti's coast.

The former colonial power France also sent auxiliary workers.

The Republic of Cuba had previously stationed over 400 doctors in Haiti, who immediately after the disaster began to provide medical care for the population. Shortly after the quake, the brigades were increased by 32 helpers. Venezuela also sent auxiliary brigades. As of January 20th, over 18,000 patients had been treated by Cuban doctors. Most of the financial resources for Cuba's aid came from Norway .

While the aid workers in most countries did not stay in Haiti for more than two months, the number of Cuban brigades rose steadily, so that when the cholera epidemic broke out in October, 900 aid workers from Cuba were working at 40 bases across the country. After a call for help by the UN in early December that less than ten percent of the urgently requested 164 million US dollars in aid could be reached, Cuba sent another 300 doctors. Between 30 and 40 percent of all treated sick people have been treated by Cubans since the outbreak of cholera.

EU Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton said there were "numerous EU citizens missing" after the earthquake. In the meantime, donation accounts have been set up in most EU countries.

The harbor became unusable due to the effects of the earthquake.

International relief operations were severely hampered by insufficient handling capacity at Aéroport international Toussaint Louverture , so that many aircraft with relief supplies had to fly to alternative airports and relief supplies were dropped by parachute. Due to the destruction, the port of Port-au-Prince was also practically no longer able to accept international aid deliveries. To improve the situation, the government has temporarily transferred control of the airport and port in the capital Port-au-Prince to the US military. The CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises , Adam Goldstein , announced that the leased private port of Labadee will be made available for the landing of relief supplies. From there, however, it is about 200 km as the crow flies to the region around Port-au-Prince.

According to various reports, the international aid measures were made considerably more difficult by anarchic conditions. Serious crime, corruption and a lack of state structures were widespread even before the earthquake.

By the time the search for survivors was officially stopped on January 22nd, 132 people had been rescued from the rubble, but some people were still rescued from the rubble, most recently on January 27th.

About three months later, at the invitation of the UN, a Haiti donor conference was held in New York on March 28 to discuss future concepts. The damage caused by the quake has now been estimated at eight billion dollars. 1.3 million people were homeless. Participants pledged $ 5.3 billion in aid over the next two years and approximately $ 9.9 billion in financial assistance over a 10-year period. Haiti's government also presented an “Action Plan for National Reconstruction and Development” to the numerous organizations and states.

Housing the homeless

About a month and a half after the quake, many victims were still missing the homeless shelters. There were already hundreds of makeshift camps next to the rubble, at the roadside, on soccer fields. However, most of the camps (“refugee camp”) lacked latrines and electricity connections. The largest camp had spread out on the Champs de Mars in Port-au-Prince, on the central square opposite the destroyed presidential palace. It is estimated that around 30,000 people lived there. According to the Red Cross, at the beginning of March 2010 only half of the approximately 1.3 million homeless had found emergency shelter. This threatened further health damage from epidemics, etc.

The United States took in about 58,000 people and granted them temporary protected status (TPS). The status was extended to May 2017, then there was a final extension of six months and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly asked those affected to initiate their departure by January 22, 2018. In the summer of 2017, numerous Haitians in the USA tried to avoid the threat of deportation by illegally going to Canada to apply for asylum there. In November 2017, the US government announced that it had consulted with the Haiti government and community representatives: Homelessness in Haiti had fallen by 97%, stability and quality of life had improved and the country was able to regain its citizens record. The date by which the departure from the USA must have taken place at the latest was set by the acting Minister for Homeland Security Elaine Duke for July 2019.

Financing of aid, fundraising

Numerous states announced financial aid for the emergency care of the victims, including Canada , Australia , Colombia , Venezuela , Panama , Germany, Austria and Switzerland . Many aid organizations have also announced immediate measures and some are still implementing them. On January 22, 2010, the first telethon Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief was broadcast internationally, aimed at collecting donations for the victims from TV viewers (CBS Los Angeles, Kaufman Astoria Studios New York and The Hospital in London). An international donor conference that met in New York at the end of March 2010 resulted in aid pledges totaling US $ 9,900 million. On July 21, 2010, the International Monetary Fund decided to cancel all of the country’s debts totaling $ 268 million. At the same time, the central bank of Haiti was given a three-year loan of $ 60 million to counter excessive currency fluctuations.

Financial support from states and institutions
Country / institution Amounts in millions of euros
state Private all in all
Equatorial GuineaEquatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea 1.41 ( $ 2 million ) still open still open
AustraliaAustralia Australia 9.7 (15 million AUD ) still open still open
BotswanaBotswana Botswana 0.104 (1 million BWP ) still open still open
BrazilBrazil Brazil 10 still open still open
British Virgin IslandsBritish Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands 0.057 ($ 80,000) still open still open
China People's RepublicPeople's Republic of China People's Republic of China 3.84 ($ 5.40 million) still open still open
Congo Democratic RepublicDemocratic Republic of Congo Democratic Republic of Congo 1.76 ($ 2.5M) still open still open
GermanyGermany Germany 17th > 27.86 > 44.86
European Commission European Commission 420 - 420
FranceFrance France 10 still open still open
IrelandIreland Ireland 20th still open still open
ItalyItaly Italy 45 still open still open
JapanJapan Japan 4.73 ($ 5.33 million) still open still open
KosovoKosovo Kosovo 0.05 still open still open
CambodiaCambodia Cambodia 0.042 ($ 60,000) still open still open
LiberiaLiberia Liberia 0.035 ($ 50,000) still open still open
LuxembourgLuxembourg Luxembourg 0.7 still open still open
NamibiaNamibia Namibia 0.69 (7.4 million NAD ) 0.40 (402,000 NAD)
0.06 (58,120 NAD)
~ 1.10
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 41.72 41.72 ~ 83.45
NorwayNorway Norway 12.26 ( NOK 100 million ) still open still open
AustriaAustria Austria 2.8 14.5 17.3
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia Saudi Arabia $ 50 million still open still open
SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland 5.1 (7.5 million CHF ) 34.8 million euros (51.3 million CHF ) > 56.4
TurkeyTurkey Turkey 0.705 ($ 1 million) still open still open
HaitiHaiti Haiti 3.39 (5 ​​million CHF), vacant still open still open
United StatesUnited States United States 69.52 ($ 100 million) > 148 (> 210 million USD) > 217.52
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 23 ( £ 20m ) still open still open
World bank World bank 69.52 ($ 100 million) - 69.52 ($ 100 million)
total approx. 764.75 approx. 259.18 approx. 1023.93

Criticism of the crisis management

The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said late January 2010, his view that the US had used the quake to "invasion and military takeover of Haiti." Other countries and well-known people in emergency aid also expressed criticism of the United States' actions.

Cholera diseases

At the end of October 2010, Haiti declared a sanitary emergency across the country after the outbreak of cholera diseases. The infections initially occurred in the rural Artibonite province , north of the capital Port-au-Prince . On November 9, 2010, cholera diseases were reported in the capital for the first time. At that time, more than 550 people had died from the disease and more than 8,000 Haitians were infected. Medical care for the population was made more difficult by the onset of the rainy season and severe flooding in the Artibonite province as a result of Hurricane Tomas in early November 2010.

Sexual exploitation of the population by aid workers

Even during the ongoing relief efforts, allegations arose that employees of foreign aid organizations were taking advantage of the plight of the population and demanding sexual “favors” in exchange for aid, food, medication or other essential items. The allegations initially concerned the 114-man contingent of Sri Lankan soldiers in Haiti. A UN investigation in March 2008 concluded that "acts of sexual exploitation and abuse (against children) were frequent and usually occurred at night and practically in every location where the said soldiers were stationed". The 114 soldiers were withdrawn from Haiti in November 2007 for "disciplinary reasons", as it was officially called at the time. The United Nations then, in cooperation with the Sri Lankan government, initiated criminal proceedings against some of the soldiers.

Similar allegations of sexual exploitation were made against employees of the British aid organization Oxfam . In 2011, four Oxfam employees were fired after an internal investigation. Three senior Oxfam employees, including Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam Director at the time, who was responsible for Haiti, resigned from their posts. On February 9, 2018, The Times newspaper published an article accusing senior Oxfam officials of haunted prostitutes, including minors, in Haiti following the earthquake. The aid organization was accused of covering up the scandal. Oxfam denied having hidden the incident, but called the behavior of its own employees "absolutely unacceptable". However, minors were not involved. The British Secretary of State for Culture Matt Hancock then asked Oxfam to hand over all documents relating to the incidents to the Charity Commission for England and Wales , a commission that oversees the activities of non-profit aid organizations. After receiving the documents, the Commission stated that it had received incomplete information from Oxfam in 2011. As a result, Oxfam came under considerable pressure, some celebrities publicly ceased their support, thousands of donors canceled their donation subscriptions and the British government threatened to stop the previous transfer payments. In a report by the Charity Commission from June 2019, Oxfam was certified as having a “culture of miserable behavior” and an official warning was issued for “mismanagement”. Oxfam has temporarily "lost sight of the values ​​it stands for". After the scandal became known in June 2018, the Haitian government banned the aid organization from continuing to operate in the country.

See also


  • D. Bayard: Haiti Earthquake Relief, Phase Two - Long-Term Needs and Local Resources . In: New England Journal of Medicine , 362: 15, April 15, 2010
  • Yanick Lahens: And suddenly the ground opens up. Haiti, January 12, 2010: a journal , from the French by Jutta Himmelreich, Rotpunkt Verlag, Zurich 2011 ISBN 978-3-85869-439-3


Web links

Commons : Haiti Earthquake 2010  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

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