No. 458 . 13 January 2010 
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Haiti Earthquake — an architectural perspective

by Kevin Matthews

Living and building day to day in one of the most challenged small countries on our planet entails difficulties hard to grasp from an every-day wealthy-country perspective.

Rushing the desperately needed volume of emergency aid — water, antiseptics, cranes — to the millions who needed it yesterday, in a devastated city and surroundings with destroyed communications, through collapsed port facilities, rubble-blocked streets, and a modest airport, seems to progress with crushing slowness.

Estimates suggest about a third of the people who were living in the whole country of Haiti on January 12, 2010, are now IDPs — internally displaced persons. Our thoughts go out to all the victims of this disaster.

In terms of human lives lost, if United Nations and other estimates bear out, the Haiti 2010 quake will rank among the ten largest earthquakes anywhere on Earth in the era since World War II.

Its immediate shaking was felt throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in Turks and Caicos Islands, southeastern Cuba, eastern Jamaica, in parts of Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and as far as some 700 miles away in Tampa, Florida, and in Caracas, Venezuela.

In any country on the globe, this loss of life would measure as a catastrophic, world-class disaster. Considering that this horrific death toll, currently estimated at 45,000 to 50,000 or even higher, is taken from a national population of about 9 million (i.e., is about half a percent of the whole), the impact is truly difficult to comprehend.

That this devastation has fallen on the star-crossed poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, hitting at a time when the nation's near-future political and economic prospects were just starting to look reasonably bright, is shattering.

Financial contributions, from countries, organizations, and individuals, will help bring help to the stricken survivors. And it is heartening to see the flow that has started.

From a professional perspective, as architects and engineers, planners and builders, there's another way we can help.   >>>



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