RMS Analyzes Haiti Earthquake, Regional Repercussions

January 29, 2010

Risk Management Solutions has released a report on the impact of the earthquake that struck near the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on January 12. The 7.0 magnitude quake destroyed much of the city and surrounding areas.

However, as RMS notes, “only over the past week has the true scale of this disaster begun to emerge. The combination of a strong earthquake in a densely populated region and poor city infrastructure has resulted in a massive disaster with over hundreds of thousands of fatalities and over two million people left homeless.”

Haiti is one of the poorest counties in the world and the building stock is extremely susceptible to earthquake damage. “While this event, which destroyed more than 4,000 buildings in Port-au-Prince alone, has limited impact to the insurance industry, it raises questions about the earthquake risk across Caribbean, the potential of an earthquake on nearby faults and what lessons can be drawn from an event such as this,” said RMS.

A team of earthquake risk experts at RMS have pulled together a detailed FAQ to try and address some of the unanswered questions that pertain to the Haiti earthquake.

Details of Haiti Earthquake:
— Over 90 percent of the walls of buildings are constructed using either concrete/blocks, earthen materials, “clisse” (translated “woven wood mats”), or bricks/rocks. These heavy materials used to construct the walls, often with no reinforcement, caused numerous building collapses, resulting in extensive property damage and loss of life.
— While the primary damage from an earthquake is due to ground shaking, secondary hazards are phenomena that can cause additional loss to people and property at risk, the most relevant secondary hazards are liquefaction and landslide—both of which played a role in increasing the damage and loss to the island nation of Haiti.
— RMS estimates approximately 250,000 fatalities as a result of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. This is a best estimate based on the limited data available within 36 hours of the occurrence of the event and the immediate impacts of the earthquake—primarily building collapse.
— This preliminary estimate of 250,000 casualties could potentially increase over the coming weeks due to compounding factors, such as the spread of infectious diseases, lack of food and water, and limited access to medical care.

RMS FAQ also includes details on the characteristics of the earthquake, discussion about the regional building stock, secondary perils and RMS casualty estimates. It is available at:
http://www.rms.com/Publications/Haiti_Earthquake_FAQ.pdf .

Source: Risk Management Solutions – www.rms.com

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