News of the WeekSeismology

Foreshadowing Haiti's Catastrophe

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Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 398
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5964.398

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Summary

Before last week, it had been 240 years since the last major earthquake on the fault that ruptured in Haiti. Stress had been building, but no big quakes had relieved it. When a section of the plate boundary finally did rupture, it did so with devastating fury. When the east-west, San Andreas–like fault ruptured, tens of thousands likely perished in what may be the Western Hemisphere's worst disaster in a century. But the devastation was more the result of lack of infrastructure than the strength of the quake itself, which barely qualified as major.