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Haiti Earthquake Was Not a Natural Disaster

That provocative headline is the claim of Peter Haas in a TED talk in July 2010. He claims that it was an engineering disaster. Shoddy construction was the reason the earthquake claimed so many lives. He compares the death toll from Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude quake to that of Chile’s 8.8 magnitude quake (not long after) and cites the vast difference in how the engineering caused the buildings to collapse (or not, in Chile) as the cause of the devastating loss of life in Haiti. He also details how his firm is helping to train local builders about how to do it right to prevent the same catastrophe from happening again. After reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, I was not surprised at the remarkable toll of human lives, and inability of the country to recover quickly on its own. The infrastructure there is notoriously bad, and was ill-equipped to handle this type of tremor. Hopefully the aid that was promised will make it to Haiti, and help to do more than simply put up new sub-standard buildings. I pray, for the sake of the beautiful people of that country, that this would be a chance for things to be done right, and a rebirth will come from the rubble of these buildings. The non-technical talk is only eight and a half minutes. I think it is definitely worth the time for those interested in the developing world in general, Haiti specifically, or applications of engineering. (See the link in the first sentence if you missed it the first time.)

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One comment on “Haiti Earthquake Was Not a Natural Disaster

  1. Whole-heartedly agree. Anything done in Haiti needs to be more than just the physical side of things (rebuilding, food import, etc) but something that can only come through relational roles (teaching, training, mentoring).

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