The tragedy caused by the earthquake (a pretty shallow one, at about 13km depth per the USGS tracker) is just breaking my heart, over and over again. I’ve already donated some money to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, and I’m hoping to make a second donation after taking a look at our financial status tomorrow. (A good list of other relief agencies here.)
Looking at this from a scientific perspective, it highlights the destructive power of faulting within the Earth’s crust. That the large quake and its aftershocks have all been shallow (10-13 km deep) means that there is less dissipation of the seismic waves when they hit the surface. So we end up with a high magnitude earthquake (of 7.0) that releases a lot of energy, and since it’s so close to the surface – and so close to a populated area – the intensity of it is unimaginable. The British Geological Society has a simple fault map of the area; this quake occurred along a transform fault, similar to the San Andreas in the US. The BGS informational statement is also a good overview:
The fault in this case is called the Enriquillo- Plantain Garden fault. This fault has been locked for the last 250 years gradually accumulating stress which has now been released in a single large earthquake.
What strikes me here is that the fault has only been locked for 250 years – barely even the blink of an eye in geologic time – and that let it accumulate enough stress to blow out in a 7.0. The Caribbean Plate is much more active and under much more stress than I ever realized, though I suppose I should have. (I think the massive Pacific Plate tends to steal all the fame.)
The geology is honestly the only thing in this situation that isn’t heart-breaking or rage-inducing. It’s the only thing I can really be rational about. If I believed in Hell, I’d be reserving a special place in it for Rush Limbaugh, who is transforming himself from the fascist gasbag I idly hate when I don’t have anything better to do with my time to someone that should simply have his membership in our species revoked. Pat Robertson has also come out to remind us that he’s a giant douchebag, which leaves me unspeakably angry as well. BoingBoing’s assessment of Haiti’s real deal with the Devil, inspired by Pat “Douchebag” Robertson, has left me upset to the point that I cannot even coherently express my opinion on this bit of history.
At this point, there’s really nothing left for people like me to do but give.