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Images: Lessons from the Haiti Earthquake

Some 230,000 people were killed in the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that struck Haiti (above), and more than 240,000 died in a 1976  earthquake in Tangshan, China, (below). Both cases demonstrated that the primary cause of deaths in earthquakes are poorly constructed buildings.
(Logan Abassi, UN Photo)

The devastating 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China, inspired WHOI geophysicist Jian Lin, who was a teenager at the time, to study earthquakes. (Photo courtesy of the China News Agency)

The Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti alleviated built-up stress along one segment (blue gridded area boxes) of the Enriquillo fault, which cuts across the island. But scientists calculated areas (red boxes) on both adjacent segments of the fault in which stress and the likelihood of earthquakes increased, including one quite near Port-au-Prince. (Figure modified from Lin, Stein, Sevilgen, and Toda (2010))

It may seem like more earthquakes are occurring recently, but the global earthquake hazard has risen primarily because populations living in cities have risen so dramatically. More people are at risk in many other seismically vulnerable cities around the world.

WHOI geophysicist Jian Lin (right) discusses Haiti earthquake data with guest student Tingting Wang. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)