August 24, 2012 2:00 pm
In 2010, a devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing upwards of 200,000 people and costing more than $8 billion in damage. The country was relatively unscathed by the hurricane seasons in both 2010 and 2011, a fortunate break given that the North Atlantic hurricane track tends to pass right over the island nation. Residents did, however, struggle with an epidemic cholera outbreak triggered by the conditions flowing from the earthquake’s destruction.
“We don’t have houses that can bear a hurricane,” said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.
About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.
The devastation of the 2010 earthquake, and the current unpreparedness for the looming storm, is a tragic twist of fate. One of the reasons the damage in 2010 was so widespread was because Haitians were trying to combat hurricanes. From a 2010 story in the New York Times, immediately following the earthquake,
When builders in Haiti do take disasters into account in their designs, their most recent experience has been with hurricanes, the last major earthquake having occurred two centuries ago. “Newer construction has been developed to withstand hurricanes, not earthquakes,” said John McAslan, a London architect who has studied Haitian buildings, working with the Clinton Global Initiative. “If you engineer for one you’re not necessarily covering the other.”
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