Haiti Earthquake Case Study Ks3 Science

Tectonic Hazards Case Study 1: Haiti, January 10, 2010

Case study of the management of an earthquake in a developing country

A. Where did the earthquake happen and why?

Use your copy of the map below to add the following labels:
  • Caribbean Sea
  • Mexico
  • Haiti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Florida
  • Jamaica
  • Cuba
  • Puerto Rico
1. Watch the video and study the pate boundaries map below carefully. Use it to add the following to your base map:
  • Caribbean Plate
  • North American Plate
  • Destructive boundaries (subduction zone)
  • Conservative boundaries (strike-slip fault)
2. Decide what kind of plate boundary is responsible for the Haiti earthquake. Draw an annotated diagram to show why earthquakes happen at this boundary. Your diagram should include: North American Plate, Caribbean Plate, direction of movement, location of Haiti.

B. Why was Haiti vulnerable?

Use the CIA world factbook (link below) to produce a factfile on development in Haiti. You should compare Haiti to at least three other countries including USA, Sweden, Indonesia. Your factfile should include all of the following:
  • GDP per capita
  • Literacy rate
  • Hospital bed density (explain what this means)
  • Adult literacy rate
  • Unemployment rate
  • % of population with access to the internet
What conclusions can you draw on Haiti's level of development? How will this have affected its vulnerability to a major earthquake event? Explain your answer fully.

C. Effects of the Earthquake

Use your own copy of the table below to compile a detailed and clearly structured account of the impacts of the earthquake.

Fast facts

News footage

Photos of the damage

D. How was the earthquake managed?

Use the resources below to list and evaluate the ways in which the earthquake in Haiti was managed. Use your own copy of the table below.

We can divide the stages of earthquake management into the 3 Ps for before an event and the 3 Rs after it.

Planning - government and NGOs ensuring that detailed plans are in place in the event of a natural disaster. this might include evacuation plans, action plans for emergency services, stores of shelters, food, clean water.
Preparation - this is about readiness. It might include education of the people who live in an area including the use of the media, poster campaigns, school programmes, emergency drills. It might also include land use zoning to avoid building on unstable ground, building regulations to ensure that homes and public buildings can withstand a hazard event.
Prediction - this is about giving warning of an event. Although we cannot predict the exact time and location of an earthquake we can study patterns of where they have occurred.

Rescue (short term)  - this is about acting immediately after the earthquake to ensure that survivors have medical care, food, shelter. It includes search and rescue, emergency services and organisations providing food, water and shelter immediately after the event.
Rehabilitation (Medium term) - this includes supporting people in ensuring that in the weeks/months after an event that they have shelter, food, water, sanitation, access to health care. It will also include the cleanup and repairs of damaged buildings, rubble, material left by landslides. It is about supporting people to recover and get on with their lives where possible. It might also include emotional support.
Reconstruction (Long term) - this is about rebuilding of homes, roads, water supply, sanitation and other infrastructure.

E. Why was the Haiti earthquake so damaging?

Use the resources below to investigate why this earthquake, a 7.0 on the MMS did so much damage. Start by referring back to your factfile from Part B. You should create an infographic to explain the reasons that this earthquake was so destructive - the structure in the slide share below might be useful.

Additional material

This video from the Al Jazeera correspondent contains some disturbing footage but raises valid questions on how the quake was managed.


Haiti is a small island located in the Caribbean, South East of the USA and East of Cuba.  Its capital city is Port-au-Prince.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


The earthquake was caused by the North American Plate sliding past the Caribbean Plate at a conservative plate margin.  Both plates move in the same direction, but one moves faster than the other.  The pressure that was built up because of the friction between the 2 plates was eventually released causing a magnitude 7 earthquake on the Richter Scale with an epicentre 16 miles West of Port-au-Prince and a shallow focus of 5 miles.  The earthquake struck at 16:53 (4:53pm) local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010.


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Primary (caused directly by the earthquake)

Secondary (result from primary effects)

316,000 people were killed and 1 million people were made homeless.  3 million people were affected by the earthquake1 in 5 people lost their jobs because so many buildings were destroyed.  Haiti’s largest industry, clothing was one of the worst affected
250,000 homes and 30,000 other buildings, including the President’s Palace and 60% of government buildings, were either destroyed or badly damagedThe large number of deaths meant that hospitals and morgues became full and bodies then had to be piled up on the streets
Transport and communication links were also badly damaged by the earthquakeThe large number of bodies meant that diseases, especially cholera, became a serious problem
Hospitals (50+) and schools (1,300+) were badly damaged, as was the airport’s control towerIt was difficult getting aid into the area because of issues at the airport and generally poor management of the situation
The main prison was destroyed and 4,000 inmates escapedPeople were squashed into shanty towns or onto the streets because their homes had been destroyed leading to poor sanitation and health, and looting became a real problem


Development Indicator


GDP per capita (average income)$1,200 per person each year
People living in poverty80% of people live on $2 or less per day
Life expectancy62 years old
People per doctor0.25 doctors per 1,000 people
Adult literacy rate53% over 15 years old can read/write
Access to clean water46% of people have access to clean water


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Short Term

Long Term

$100 million in aid given by the USA and $330 million by the European Union98% of the rubble on the roads hadn’t been cleared restricting aid access
810,000 people placed in aid camps1 million people still without houses after 1 year so still have to live in aid camps
115,000 tents and 1,000,000+ tarpaulin shelters providedSupport for people without jobs, which equates to nearly 70% of the population, through cash/food-for-work projects
Healthcare supplies provided to limit diseaseTemporary schools created and new teachers trainee
Lack of immediate aid through poor planning, management and access meant that people had to try and rescue each otherWater and sanitation eventually supplied for 1.7 million people
4.3 million people provided with food rations in the weeks following the earthquake

Useful Documents

Primary and secondary effects of the Haiti earthquake


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