Why Is Everything Still Standing In the Dominican Republic?

Center for Constitutional Rights has a list of organizations that look legit for any and all Haiti earthquake donations. If you are not yet aware of the YELE phone-contribution app, read all about it. (I don't vouch for it.)

Haiti is a geopolitical oddball like Papua New Guinea or Ventnor, New Jersey: a separate polity on a divided island. Keeping in mind that there can always be a bigger earthquake, in general the poorer you are, the more vulnerable you will be to any natural disaster. There is a stark contrast between the damage in Haiti, where the government is estimating 100,000 dead, and that in the Dominican Republic, where the news is mostly of undamaged buildings, no casualties, and surveillance footage of leisurely customers strolling out of shaking stores.

But the important difference here is not (yet) economic. Port-au-Prince, for the infiniteenth time, just got unlucky. The quake originated out of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system, which in the University of Texas' elegant phrasing, "forms a continuous and prominent geomorphic lineament from the Enriquillo Valley of the Dominican Republic, through the southern peninsula of Haiti, across the Jamaica Passage between Jamaica and Haiti and along the Plantain Garden fault zone bounding the southern edge of the Blue Mountains of eastern Jamaica." But the epicenter was Port-au-Prince itself, and there are limits to how much higher-quality buildings and infrastructure can ever prevent destruction. (Commenter oaktownadam sends along this very illustrative graphic to show how limited the heavy shaking was geographically.) The Kobe earthquake of 1995 pretty well shellacked a modern urban area in a quake-conscious country.

Major differences in earthquake survival come at the stage we're in now, when it's a question of limiting deaths from after-effects -- and that is undoubtedly a matter of wealth. The Kobe example is instructive here, because that event ended up taking fewer than 7,000 lives, while Port-au-Prince (which also suffered a higher-magnitude quake) is already expecting a much larger death toll. This list of the 20th century's biggest earthquakes demonstrates how variable casualties-to-magnitude numbers can be, with variables including the magnitude of the event, where the epicenter is, and how prepared the community is. Haiti has lost on all three of those counts.

Which means (thankfully) there can be no scoring of cheap ideological points in this horrible event. But in the we-hope-something-good-may-come-of-this department, maybe Haiti and its neighbors (including the Dominican Republic, which despite its relatively free economy and participation in CAFTA is unable to conclude a bi-national free-trade agreement with Haiti) can look more seriously at helping the country through free exchange of goods, people and capital. The United States could kick in with an immigration policy that focuses less on killing sick old men and more on getting all the Haitians to Brooklyn, where they were meant to be.

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  • wingnutx ||

    Earthquakes are racist.

  • Tacos mmm...||

    One of the fascinating things about the Haiti/DR border is how clear it is from the air:

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF.....h&z=13

    Haiti has been essentially deforested for firewood. Where you're overhead, it's like a sharp demarcating line through the island between barren Haiti and the DR.

  • Rimfax||

    I find your assertion compelling, but if the border is a continental divide, the shading difference could be due to rainfall difference on either side of the island. I understand that in Hawaii, each island has a dry side and a wet side with marked vegetation differences. Another possibility, again assuming a continental divide border, would be late afternoon sun when the image was taken yielding a darker green DR to the east.

    It would be cool if you've got something else to show that the wood-burning poor in Haiti are denuding the forests, yet respecting the seemingly unchecked DR border.

  • anon||

    That's a joke right?

    You realize that your google link is showing satellite photos from different seasons (possibly years apart) stitched together by google for a seamless image, right?

    Zoom out one level and the whole island is green. Zoom in a few levels and you can clearly see the photos were taken at completely different resolutions.

    You can see this all over the place on google maps. like, the ocean changing color along a straight line...

  • ||

    Zoom out a bit. What he is talking about doesn't look like stitching to me. It might just be the dry side of the island, but the different is certainly there.

  • oaktownadam||

    Why things are still standing in DR has less to do with economics and politics, and more to do with geography...look:

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/ear...../2010rja6/

    You can see that the intensity of the shaking tapers off extremely quickly.

  • oaktownadam||

    Compare that to the similarly-sized 1989 Loma Prieta quake which pretty much flattened the freeway system in Oakland:

    http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2005/1.....nsity.html

    Geography, geography, geography. Having a mountain range between you and the quake (like DR did) makes a big difference.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Thanks, adam. Only Californians understand...

  • Carter||

    We need Haitians to do the zombie making jobs Americans are unwilling or unable to do.

  • not the real jb||

    It also has to do with surface compopsition. Yeah, the Cypress structure in Oakland pancaked in '89, but there was almost no damage in San Jose, which was *much* closer to the epicenter. The difference is that more of SJ is built on bedrock, while SF and Oakland are landfilled.

  • oaktownadam||

    Indeed. Major parts of SF and Oakland are composed of landfill, sand, and alluvial mud....all of which turn to liquid whenever the ground shakes.

    Incidentally, a large portion of the SF landfill that underlies the financial district is composed of the rubble from the 1906 earthquake...you can still see bricks whenever they dig in that part of the city.

    California not having a major earthquake for 50 years, while most of the infrastructure was actually being built (and thus untested), has also been pointed to as a cause.

  • oaktownadam||

    For those who want to be horrified:
    http://geology.about.com/od/li.....y_Area.htm

  • Old Mexican||

    I live in Santa Cruz . . . NOTHING horrifies me now.

  • ||

    Hey, my new home is right in the middle of a green blob! Green means "safe", right?

  • EJM||

    Center for Constitutional Rights has a list of organizations that look legit for any and all Haiti earthquake donations.

    Personally, I'd go with InterAction's list.

  • Pedantula||

    If someone chooses to point out that Haiti probably fared worse than a freer society would have under similar circumstances, does that represent the scoring of cheap ideological points?

    When a terrible disaster strikes an already miserable, simmering shithole, every point made is expensive.

  • Rimfax||

    Haiti and DR haven't gotten along for a while.

  • Syd Henderson||

    Goes back farther than that. Haiti conquered the Dominican Republic in the 19th Century.

  • spur@anon.com||

    Pat Robertson is tyring to score cheap points - how else do you break from Napoleon III other than making a pact with the devil?

  • wingnutx ||

    LINK

    I call BS, simply because you could never get a consensus that large.

  • not the real jb||

    Ah, and using the linked list of earthquakes since 1900, the R-squared between magnitude and deaths is .35. That's actually quite high for something like this.

    The key is to *not* correlate the raw Richter-scale measure because it's logarithmic. A 7.0 is ten-times stronger than a 6.0. Even if there was a perfect correlation between the amount of energy released and the number of deaths, a correlation coefficient between those two variables would be less than 1.0; it would be a curvilinear relationship, while Pearson's r only accurately reflects linear relationships.

    So if you convert each quake's measure to 10^, you get an r = .59.

  • The Wine Commonsewer (TWC)||

    I know you are speaking English, because I recognize some of the words, but I'll just have to take your workd for it.....

    :-)

  • ||

    The Richter scale measures displacement amplitude, not energy. A 7.0 is actually 31.6 times stronger than a 6.0.

    How does the correlation look then?

  • The Wine Commonsewer (TWC)||

    I am partial to Salvation Army, in part, because they have had an ongoing presence in Haiti for decades. Plus they were first to be kicked out of New Orleans by the National Guard. Getting there first is a good quality.

  • Death Panelist||

    Barack Obama doesn't care about black people.

  • ||

    I hope that someone in the DC braintrust is thinking about the immigration impact of this. If the reports are correct, everyone in Haiti should pull their living from the rubble, bury their dead and then use the pallets the disaster aid is coming in on to build boats.

    The place was a gaping shithole before - now - only the insane would stay there.

  • ||

    " The United States could kick in with an immigration policy that focuses less on killing sick old men and more on getting all the Haitians to Brooklyn, where they were meant to be."

    Can they all stay at Tim's house while they get on their feet?

  • ||

    I know you are retarded but, let me explain the facts for you.
    Haiti is a shithole BECAUSE of the people who live there. Having them leave solves nothing because any place they live in rapidly falls apart and turns to garbage.

  • .||

    Send them to Cuba.

  • ||

    I'm not convince that's the case.
    Haiti clearly suffers some some sociocultural problems, part of which is a socialist zealotry that stems from Haiti's particular history. But the liberation theologists like Jean-Bertrand Artistide aren't the people fleeing the island.

    I'm sure the boat people bring some of the social pathologies of Haiti with them when they flee, but such pathologies are reinforced from above by a system that doesn't reward initiative or honesty. Once these people are transplanted into another culture, it's a different story, especially if they are dispersed. At least the second generation is likely to absorb some different values.

    I'd be concerned that they are more likely to settle in African American communities that have their own pathologies, likely to reinforce the Haitians', though.

  • ||

    I gave money to Mercy Corps for the 2004 tsunami.

  • Old Mexican||

    Why Is Everything Still Standing In the Dominican Republic?

    Because otherwise nobody would go to Punta Cana.

  • ||

    The first thing that came to mind to me was the famous Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

  • jester||

    Haiti, Bolivia and Chad have been perennial poverty measuring sticks. And they have also been perennial corrupt government measuring sticks.

    Haiti and Chad were formerly French. Bolivia has been run by a miner's union, so is essentially French.

    BTW, who would ever name their child after Chad? As far as I know no one has named their child Haiti or Bolivia.

  • brotherben||

    A neighbor down the street has a daughter named Bolivia. Spelled
    O-l-i-v-i-a

    Did I mention that he has a hairlip?

  • .||

    Perennial poverty and corrupt government measuring sticks - and formerly French. Why am I not surprised? Sounds like New Orleans.

  • Untermensch||

    Interesting the things that can impact. The 1964 Good Friday Earthquake did pretty substantial damage to Anchorage's commercial district and larger public buildings, but it struck at a time when schools were out and most businesses were closed for the Easter holiday, so the lives lost were much lower than they could have been. So at least some depends on sheer luck. (Which isn't to say that other factors aren't important.)

  • ||

    No scoring of cheap political points? Oh, ye of little faith!

    “This will play right into Obama’s hands — humanitarian, compassionate. They’ll use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community — the both the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country. It’s made to order for them." (Limbaugh)

  • Stafinfe ctin||

    Maybe this should be a good time to consider the importance of geologic common sense in future cities. a note to any future states; Don't build your capital/major city/heavy buildings on active fault lines!

  • Naturalized US person||

    Nevermind Afghanistan, this is the sort of country the US government should consider taking over for an extended period of time. The US has a ton of national interest in the Carribean, and Haiti has been a terrible country for its average citizens, for forever. If America is going to have a sideline in fixing countries, this is the right place to start.

  • ||

    What is France doing to help Hiati after pillaging the country for more than a century. So where are you France?????

  • ||

    Yes, in Haiti they murderer all the lighter skin blacks as a matter of policy. Like France before them, they destroyed the intellectual infrastructure of their population, and now there's nobody left with any useful intelligence.

  • Steve Sailer||

    Yes, I quite agree, Tim would be happy to put all 9.8 million Haitians up at his place for a few years.

  • ||

    this is a CHEAP shameless attempt to divert the focus away from donations which saves lives today to superficial logic thats not at all compelling"im jus sayn'" once the world begins trading with haiti they will rewright their history in no time im positive. wow. your seriously not that bright(text yele to 501501, make a huge 5$ donation, today)

  • ||

    Enough is enough. How many Billions of dollars have we poured into the open sewer that is Haiti. It's not our fault that they are corrupt and can't build worth a fark.

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