Slowly but surely we are catching up on the true dimensions of the
quake. The bottom line is that total deaths will come in between 250,000 to 400.000. I think though that we should be toward the low end of this range since by now most easy recovery should be well under way. Haiti
Virtuously all these deaths resulted from almost nonexistent building codes or certainly a non existent respect for proper engineering. This was not an act of God. It was an act of man. It is a reminder that in the face of natural disaster that people will die, but also that it is possible to prevent those deaths.
Concrete is a terrible building material in an earthquake prone district. It needs to be well reinforced with a lot of expensive steel for any hope of retaining integrity. It is also heavy. That means that it will develop a huge amount of momentum that will tear apart any structure at the joints.
That is why the best strategy is to find a way to retain joint strength while reducing building mass. That is the weakness of classic post and beam structures. The joint itself can often be easily pulled apart or merely shaken off center if the fastening is not very strong. In fact they present multiple failure points. Combine that with a tile room and we have a death trap.
Eliminate roof weight and using a series of support walls, possibly at right angles to each other, is inherently a much more resistant regime. North American wood frame tends to naturally provide this sort of strength and even better, it tends to avoid catastrophic collapse long enough for escape.
Again recall the last big quake in
at magnitude 7. Freeways crumpled and bridges were damaged. Yet we did not find whole neighborhoods collapsed as in California . Certainly as many people were affected and a lot of tall concrete buildings that ride through without trouble. Haiti
Let us make sure that the new Haiti is built to do as well.
Many more remain uncounted under rubble in the capital and elsewhere, including the towns of Jacmel and Leogane.