The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The Disaster Was Waiting to Happen

Feb 1, 2010

In Haiti, geologists, engineers and other specialists had long sounded the alarm. To give just a few of the more recent examples, in September of 2008, after a few smaller shocks, a geology professor wrote: “In 1751 and 1771, this city was completely destroyed by an earthquake, and I will bet all I have that this will be reproduced.”

The director of the Bureau of the Mines confirmed this warning: “These minor shocks are worrisome. They generally announce much more intense quakes to follow.”

In March of 2009, a Haitian geologist stated: “We can expect a quake to come at any time.... We must, consequently, think of the impact of such a menace on the population, on the infrastructure, on roads, water and electrical systems, and propose the actions necessary to at least diminish our vulnerability and to limit the devastation.”

One hundred years ago, Wegener explained the shifting of continents. Since then, geologists have understood that continental plates are in motion, and that these shifts lead to fractures, to faults between plates in contact with one another. We know this causes the majority of earthquakes. The outlines of this knowledge is well-known, the faults have been mapped, including the one under the city of Port-au-Prince. We know perfectly well how to construct buildings using anti-quake standards so that buildings do not collapse in quakes. And this is done today in Japan and in California, but not in Haiti.

Perhaps the date of the earthquake – January 12 – could not have been predicted. But the earthquake and its tragic consequences were totally predictable.