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Magnitude of Haiti quake surprises experts

Thursday, January 14, 2010 03:26:56 PM, ANI

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Washington: The intensity of the Haiti earthquake that killed nearly 500,000 people has left experts intensely surprised, with the magnitude 7 quake being touted as the strongest earthquake in more than two centuries.


“It’s quite strange from a historical perspective,” the National Geographic Daily News quoted Julie Detton, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, as saying.


Haiti is part of the island of Hispaniola, which also hosts the Dominican Republic. The last major earthquake to strike Haiti’s side of the island was in 1860.


Tuesday’s initial earthquake, which struck at about 5 p.m, spawned dozens of aftershocks, about 15 of which were magnitude 5 or greater.


“It’s not something that we can project is going to happen. But definitely if you’re moving two [plates] in one area, you’re building up stress and strain in another,” Detton said.


According to the report, the Haiti earthquake was caused by the release of seismic stresses that had built up around two tectonic plates.


The motions of these plates create what are known as strike-slip faults, where two sections of Earth’s crust are grinding past each other in opposite directions, it adds.


“The Caribbean plate is moving eastward with respect to the North American plate,” Detton said.


When the stresses along the fault lines reach a certain point, they can be released in bursts of energy that cause earthquakes, although it’s unclear when the energy will be discharged as a series of small quakes or as one big temblor.


Since Haiti is very close to the boundary where the Caribbean and North American plates meet, fault lines linked to the plates’ movements run right through the country, Detton said. (ANI)
















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