OSU geologist forecasted Haiti quake

OSU geologist forecasted Haiti quake

OSU geologist forecasted Haiti quake

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by Keely Chalmers

Bio | Email | Follow: @KeelyChalmers

kgw.com

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 9:41 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- An international earthquake expert from Oregon State University forecasted that a destructive earthquake would hit Haiti just a week before it happened.

Robert Yeats reported last week that an earthquake along the fault that runs underneath Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, would be devastating to the island nation. 

Yeats is in Japan this week. But a geosciences associate professor at OSU said there are characteristics - or "ingredients" one can look for in the study of earthquakes.

Andrew Meigs emphasized that no one can predict earthquakes. But one could inflict destruction to the Pacific Northwest. And scientists had anticipated a destructive quake occurring underneath Haiti for several reasons. Port-au-Prince sits along a massive fault and there has not been an earthquake in the region for more than 200 years.

The buildings in Haiti are substandard and not seismically retrofitted to withstand the force of a massive earthquake like the one that occurred earlier this week - which scientists said had 35-times the force of an atomic blast.

Meigs, who researches earthquakes around the world, noted that Portland sits near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, and like Haiti, the fault underneath the Cascades has not experienced an earthquake in hundreds of years.

But there is a substantive difference, he said.

“When you factor in buildings it could have an inverse or opposite relationship.  If your buildings are good you may be able to endure larger ground motions and have less fatalities,” Meigs said.

The disaster that's devastated the poor Carribean nation holds a lesson for cities across the globe, he added.

"We need to always be prepared for one. It could be tomorrow. It could be 200 years from now."

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