1 × 10^3 Words: Haiti

by Michael Mullaney on January 12, 2012

It’s been two years to the day since the devastating 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. The quake’s epicenter was only 16 miles outside of Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital and most populous city. Even two years later, the damage and destruction is still unfathomable. The city and country will be in recovery mode for a long time.

Rensselaer Professor Jose Holguín-Veras was in Port-au-Prince 10 days after the quake. Above and below are some of the pictures he took. While there, he took careful inventory of the relief policies, relief procedures, relief preparations, and relief infrastructure in place. His objective was to analyze what went right, and identify what could be improved in preparation for future disasters.

The impact of the earthquake was certainly amplified by the fact that Haiti is among the world’s poorest nations. Holguín-Veras warns, however, that the main bottleneck and logistical challenges in delivering aid were not keyed to Haiti’s lack of wealth. Instead, the problem was keyed to the very structure, or supply chain, used to funnel water, medicine, food, and other items into the country and into the hands of those in need. Other nations, even the richest nations, are vulnerable to this structural risk. In fact, he saw many of the same bottlenecks and problems in the relief efforts in Japan—a very rich nation—following last year’s big earthquake and tsunami there.

Jose recently spoke to reporters on this topic. Listen to a recording of the press briefing here.

Also, see this story posted today Discovery News about Jose’s research.

Here’s something we posted at The Approach two years ago following the earthquake, which features snippets from a phone conversation I had with Jose.