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January 18, 2010 – Original Source: Examiner, US

In October 2008, Patrick Charles – a former professor at the Geological Institute of Havana – told a reporter from Haiti’s Le Matin newspaper that, “conditions are ripe for major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince.”

Charles’ statements reiterated the positions of five prominent scientists who presented a paper – at the March 2008 Caribbean Geological Conference – stating that a fault zone on the south side of the island of Hispaniola (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) “posed a major seismic hazard.”

Both Charles and the five members of the conference group pointed to the large fault – part of the Enriquillo Fault Zone – that traverses the city of Port-au-Prince.

“We were concerned about it,” conference paper co-author Paul Mann, a senior research scientist at the University of Texas’ Institute for Geophysics, told CNN. “The problem with these kinds of strikes is that they can remain quiescent — dormant — for hundreds of years. So it’s hard to predict when they’ll occur.”

In the Le Matin article, Professor Charles cited numerous then-recent tremors that occurred in the Haitian townships of Delmas, Croix des Bouquets, La Plaine and Petionville. The Enriquillo fault starts in Petionville and follows the southern peninsula, ending in the town of Tiburon – which was twice destroyed by earthquakes in the 18th century.

“Minor tremors such as these,” Charles told Le Matin in October 2008, “usually signal a larger earthquake to come.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey there have been 12 major earthquakes measuring 7.0 or greater on the Richter Scale in the Carribean in the past 500 years. In 1946, a magnitude 8.0 near Hispaniola caused a tsunami and left 20,000 people homeless.

Professor Charles told Le Matin that it had been 200 years since any major seismic activity had occurred in Port-au-Prince, and the building stress and energy beneath the earth’s surface could one day result in an earthquake measuring 7.2 striking the capital city.

Last Tuesday’s quake measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale.

Noting that Haitian government officials often discuss plans to deal with a potential calamitous earthquake but never move to put measures in place addressing such an event, Charles described the devastating scenarios the world has watched unfold this past week.

“This would be an event of catastrophic proportions in a city with loose building codes and an abundance of shanty-towns built in ravines,” Charles told the Haitian newspaper.

Charles’ 2008 warning included the potential for a tsunami flooding La Plaine and the complete destruction of Morne l’Hopital – an area teeming with flimsy shanty-towns.

“If we thought the recent back-to-back hurricanes were devastating,” Le Matin wrote at the time, “they surely will pale in comparison to a major earthquake in the densely populated Haitian capital.”

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