Why was Trinidad and Tobago not devastated by Tuesday’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake when a quake measuring 7.0 wiped out parts of Haiti and killed hundreds of thousands of people?
The reason, says head of The UWI’s Seismic Research Centre Dr Joan Latchman was because of depth and distance.
Citizens of T&T should consider themselves extremely lucky, she said.
Latchman is also reminding citizens that they should have a ‘hazard bag’ with essential supplies in the event there is a more destructive tremor.
And while it is impossible to say if Tuesday’s quake was a ‘foreshock’ to a bigger event, Latchman said that it can happen at any time.
Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake happened in January 2010.
Latchman said: “The Haiti quake was very close in energy to the energy released yesterday. The difference is that in Haiti, it occurred 10 kilometres from Port-Au-Prince (the capital) and at a depth of 10 kilometres. And you had poorly constructed structures in Port-Au-Prince, and a population of millions. It was a virtual perfect storm”.
The official Haitian government count put the death toll at more than 300,000, with hundreds of thousands of survivors displaced. The country has never fully recovered.
Latchman said that Tuesday’s quake was 130 kilometres deep and at a considerable distance from Port of Spain “so those are the factors that have contributed to the lower levels of damage in Trinidad and Tobago”
She said that if Tuesday’s quake was at the same depth and distance as the Haiti tragedy, Trinidad and Tobago country would have seen widespread destruction.
Before an earthquake
Build your home in accordance with the recommended building codes. See your local disaster management office for details.
Bolt heavy furniture, water tanks, water heaters, gas cylinders and storage units to a wall or floor.
Place largest and heaviest items on lower shelves.
Emergency items such as canned foods, medication, flashlights, battery-operated radios, fire extinguishers and a First Aid kit should be readily available and working properly.
All family members should know how to use this emergency equipment and should know how to turn off electricity, gas and water using safety valves and main switches.
All family members should know what to do during an earthquake and should practice these safety tips through regular drills.
During an earthquake
STAY CALM. DO NOT PANIC. BE ALERT.
If inside stay inside, do not run out of the building.
If inside, stand in a strong doorway or get under a sturdy desk, table or bed and hold on. Do not use elevators or stairs. Move away from windows, mirrors, glass doors, pictures, bookcases, hanging plants and heavy objects.
If outside and there are no obvious signs of danger nearby, stay there.
If outside, stay away from glass buildings, electricity poles, and bridges.
If in a vehicle, do not stop on or under a bridge.
Always look out for falling plaster, bricks, lighting fixtures and other objects.
If trapped under debris
Do not light a match.
Do not move about or kick up dust.
Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.
After an earthquake
Check for broken gas lines and fires.
Check utilities and switch them off, if necessary.
Check your house for serious damage and evacuate if the house seems likely to collapse.
Be prepared for more earthquakes (aftershocks).
Stay away from landslide-prone areas.
Turn on transistor radio for emergency news.
If possible, check the Seismic Research Centre’s website at www.uwiseismic.com for updates on the earthquake.
Do not light a match or turn on a light switch. Use a flashlight instead.
Never touch fallen power lines.
Do not go sightseeing. Leave the streets clear for emergency and rescue vehicles.
Do not attempt to move seriously injured persons unless they are in danger of further injury.
What about the Triangle of Life?
This is a widely circulated suggestion which states that during an earthquake it is safer to curl up next to a desk or bed rather than to go under it. We do not recommend this practice for the following reasons:
The Triangle of Life is not a scientifically proven theory.
It is unknown if during the earthquake these “triangles of life” - spaces next to desks, beds etc.- are impacted in any way which may make them unsafe areas.
In the Eastern Caribbean, ‘pancaking’ or crumbling of buildings which would crush occupants as described in the ‘Triangle of Life’, is not expected.