TCI remembers Haiti Earthquake during Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Week

Turks and Caicos Islands, January 6th, 2014 (DDME) - On January 12, 2014, Haiti and the world will mark the anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which hit the island of Haiti on January 12, 2010. The devastating earthquake was followed by at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5. About three million people were affected by the quake, 316,000 of them lost their lives. 300,000 were left wounded and over a million people were made homeless. According to the Haitian government, it is estimated that 250,000 residence buildings and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed or were severely damaged.

Today the Turks and Caicos Islands will join the world to commemorate the event by declaring January 12-17 as Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Week. This is the first time that the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME) will be hosting this event.
The Turks and Caicos Islands lie on the North American plate, approximately 150 kilometres to the north of the Puerto Rico Trench. The Puerto Rico Trench is an active plate boundary that marks the plate boundary between the North American and Caribbean Plates. This region has experienced major earthquakes and is the source of several Caribbean tsunamis the most notable being Haiti in 2010.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Haiti Earthquake was felt in Cockburn Town and Cockburn Harbour. During this period, the DDME seizes the opportunity to recall that initially after the Haiti earthquake many persons in the TCI felt a few of the aftershocks and the TCI was placed on a tsunami watch. Chaos ensued as many persons were not sure how to respond, some took to the streets, the DDME office phones were constantly ringing with persons seeking pertinent information etc. In this regard, we would like to increase our public awareness for these specific hazards in order to ensure that in the event that there is another earthquake that as a country our people will be better prepared to respond.

Based on 2013 seismic analysis undertaken as part of the of the TCI Building Code under the Hurricane Ike Recovery and Rehabilitation Project, the USGS’ Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Programme (GSHAP) states that there is a low to moderate level of susceptibility in the Turks and Caicos Islands to seismic activity. This is contrary to the view shared by the populace that the Turks and Caicos Islands’ susceptibility to earthquakes is low.

Based on this finding, the seismic coefficients which have been incorporated into the new Building Code reflect the higher levels of susceptibility. In summary, based on the information available the assumption is that the whole of the TCI islands fall into Site Class D. Following the International Building Code standards this means that buildings in the TCI fall into Seismic Design Category D, which prohibits unreinforced masonry and concrete walls without “special” ductile detailing. This design category also gives height limits on other forms of construction e.g. light weight timber frames.

The updated Building Code will be released by the Planning Department in early February and design professionals and contractors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the new building code and the improved seismic safety criteria and requirements it contains.

In order to mark the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake DDME will be undertaking the following activities:

  • Promotion of Earthquake and Tsunami Education in schools
  • Distribution of Earthquake and Tsunami pamphlets, posters and brochures in the community
  • Special prayer in church for the people of Haiti who are still recovering following the event in 2010
  • Carry out an earthquake drill in a community
  • Secondment of the Public and Information Officer to Jamaica to observe and participate in their yearly earthquake and tsunami campaign as a means of skills transfer.

The DDME is also encouraging the residents to visit our Facebook Page to garner tips on earthquakes and tsunamis and ways in which you may protect you and your family.

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