Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ring of fire

For the past few years, insurmountable circumstances have devastated some of the most poorest countries. Foreign aid cannot come quick enough as the injured population struggles to survive with limited supplies and resources. The magnitude of the recent earthquake in Haiti has caught many by surprise, since the fault line of the Caribbean and North American plates (Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault) is not as well publicized as the seismic area of the Pacific Rim.

According to Jian Lin a WHOI senior scientist, it was three factors that magnified the tragic result.

1. It was centered just ten miles southwest of the capital city, Port au Prince.
2. The quake was shallow, only ten or fifteen kilometers below the land's surface.
3. Many of the homes and buildings were not designed to withstand such force.

Earthquakes, unlike many of the other natural disasters are still unpredictable and preparation or evacuation beforehand is not an option. To make matter worse, tremors are only the tip of the iceberg, it's the landslides, tsunamis, falling debris, diseases from contamination, and fires that follow the initial upheaval that you need to worry about. And yet having lived in a few of the known hot spots, I found many locals to be rather ho-hum about the possibility, especially if they have never experienced a tremor in their life time.

Vancouver, one of the few Canadian cities sitting on the Cascadia Subduction Zone on the "Ring of Fire", has been criticized for their poor prevention planning and that is unlikely to change in the near future. With the exception of the temporary cash flow injected into the city for the upcoming Olympics, the city is more concerned with the real estate market than anything else. Condos crop up in the city with ferocious speed, quickly built to meet the buyers' demand for a stake in one of the "most beautiful cities in the world". One wonders, how well are those buildings made in such a hurry?

As the aftershocks subside, the darkest side of our survival instinct will float to the surface as it always does (and crazy... Pat Robertson), but hopefully the brightest side of our humanity will compel us to help others in need.

In the last decade alone, the world has experienced unprecedented catastrophic disasters...

Sumatra, Indonesia earthquake 7.9 June 4, 2000
Baku, earthquake 7.0 November 25, 2000

Denali, Alaska earthquake 7.9 November 3, 2002

Indian Ocean earthquake 9.1-9.3 December 26, 2004

Java, Indonesia 7.7 July 17, 2006

Sichuan, China 7.9 May 12, 2008

Vanuatu Island of Santo 7.7 -7.8 October 7, 2009

Port-au-Prince, Haiti 7.0 January 12, 2010

Would like to donate? Here's a link of approved charities by CBC
Ways to help in Canada