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Unnatural Disaster

January 29, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

There was a perfect, deadly storm of circumstance in the Caribbean this week. Some reports are estimating the dead from the Haitian earthquake to reach 200,000. It’s the most devastating loss of life since the Sumatran tsunami of 2004. The kind of loss that pulls you, even for a moment, to that place.

The perfect storm was a collision of three unfortunate facts. Firstly, the earthquake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, similar in strength to the San Francisco quake that shut down the World Series in 1989.

Secondly, the event occurred at a depth of only 9km, meaning there wasn't much earth to absorb the shock of massive, shifting tectonic plates. The last, most brutal front: it hit under the capital city, Port-au-Prince, a city in shambles from centuries of economic abuse from European colonizers and North American-backed coups.

A city without building codes, with dwellings constructed level by level, as needed, without any rebar or other enforced structural support. Hillside communities are now pancaked to the ground by the worst earthquake to hit there in 240 years. Ironically, the many who were living in cardboard boxes are probably among the more well-off at this moment in Haitian history.

ABC News has some dramatic before and after photos, and Life has some of the latest photos from the battered island nation. See this blog post from the Daily Beast to find ways you can help, or visit the Canadian Red Cross site here.

And let's hope this tragedy can illuminate the mistreatment of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere at the hands of our own nation, and many others that now come so nobly as rescuers.

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