On January 12, 2010, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the devastation was monumental. Estimates suggest more than 200,000 people died and many more were left homeless. The country was left weakened, and a cholera outbreak killed thousands more in subsequent months. To this day, Haiti is struggling to get back on its feet.
Just over a year later on March 11, 2011, another earthquake struck. This time, it was a 9.0-magnitude earthquake just off the coast of Japan, followed by a gigantic tsunami and nuclear disaster. Some of the effects in Japan were obvious, while others we may not fully understand for decades to come.
With the two major earthquakes so close together, many people are comparing the two disasters. Here is a breakdown of the similarities and differences between the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.
Type and number of natural disasters: Haiti was hit by an earthquake, while Japan suffered an earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster. Haiti’s earthquake was closer to the surface of the earth (though smaller in magnitude) and followed by a cholera outbreak in coming months. More buildings collapsed as a result of the earthquake in Haiti (see “preparation” below), whereas most of the physical damage in Japan was due to the ensuing tsunami.
Level of preparation: Japan has a history of frequent seismic activity and was more or less structurally prepared for an earthquake. The country has strict construction codes that help reduce the effects of earthquakes, and that preparation paid off. Haiti, located in an area generally more threatened by hurricanes than earthquakes, was not as prepared structurally for the disaster.
Casualties: While it’s difficult to determine exactly how many people each quake affected, we do have estimates. Recent reports suggest about 28,000 people are dead or missing in Japan as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, while Haiti’s earthquake claimed over 200,000 lives. The number of Japanese casualties is likely to increase as more information becomes available, whereas the Haiti estimate should be relatively accurate after a year.
Wealth of country: Japan is one of the richest countries in the world while Haiti is one of the poorest. While this might seem unrelated to the natural disasters, it has everything to do with recovery. Japan has many of the resources and manpower they need to rebuild and continue to thrive. Haiti, on the other hand, was struggling to support its citizens even before the earthquake.
Publicity and humanitarian aid: Haiti received much more financial aid in the week following the disaster than Japan did. After seven days, Haiti had received $275 million in donations, whereas Japan received only $87 million in the same amount of time.