One would have to add to the equation when it is being considered that the earthquake (8.8) that struck Chile on 27 Feb., 2010, caused much less damage, including loss of lives, than the tremor in Haiti a few weeks earlier on 12 Jan.
The Chile quake has killed approximately 700 people according to the most recent records, but the one measuring 7.0, killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti.
So does it stands to reason that buildings in Haiti were constructed quickly and very cheaply?
Chile, on the other hand, is a much richer country and the people do have the ability, financial and otherwise to install more stringent building codes and then have the people of the country adhere to them.
When it comes to construction, especially of buildings and other facilities designed to accommodate hundreds of people at the same time ensured that it is â€œsafety firstâ€.
These are the types of situations that seem to allow for great loss of lives and it is important that lessons are learnt.
It is, however, not all in the hands of the authorities as business and home owners, too, have a responsibility to ensure that building is done properly and according to specifications building codes demanded by the local authorities
This is what happened to Haiti.
What is the situation in Dominica ? Is it closer to Haiti, or Chile, wrt building codes and their enforcement ?
The different casualty factors was a result of not just about the better construction standards in Chile, but also about the geography of the quake. For example the depth at which the earthquake originated and the type of rock over which the places are situated. Also bear in mind that the nature of movement of the plates are different.
Beyond this, earthquakes are not new to Chile, and we know that Chile is a developing country with much resources, so disaster preparedness in that country is of course better.
In my non-technical assessment, Dominica is somewhere in the middle. By default we would fare pretty well, for a moderate earthquake since most buildings constructed in the island are concrete with significant reinforced concrete content. Now as far as the codes go, that may be a different story. Earthquakes are a relatively common phenomena in Dominica. Officially all new construction and expansions are subject to approval by the planning authority. There is some consideration for earthquakes, but I would say there has probably been more emphasis on fortifications against hurricanes. That is not to say that newly constructed buildings would not stand the test of a moderate earthquake (and Dominica has had its share of 5 and 6+ richter scale earthquakes over the years). But if the question is: are we planning for the real big one in Dominica? Then the answer is no. For example, I don’t think the population is sensitized on what best to do during an earthquake; nor are critical buildings such as fire services, hospital and emergency management locations necessarily more resistant or strategically designed to survive some of the major natural disasters possible on island.
Its a pity that we have to be reminded by nature’s disasters to get into panic mode and be worried sick about what may happen to Dominica. Yes, these are things to be concerned about; but it is well known that countries like Dominica has always been at the top of the list of natural disaster possibilities in the region..After all, we are smack in the middle of the chain of islands that are part of the hurricane path. The island has 7 volcanoes (the most in the Caribbean); and also lies on an earthquake belt. Whereas hurricanes are normally expected June to December; earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can happen anytime. Also, we are in the path of potential tsunamis from volcanic events on and off island. For example, the most active volcano south of Montserrat is an undersea volcano in Grenadian waters, Kick-em jenny”. Its is known that this could generate a tsunami if it actively erupts. And it can; with limited warning. A major landslip in the north of the island, possible after a particular earthquake could also led to a devastating tsunami spreading from Dominica and certainly affecting our shorelines too. Scientists say that when Dominica’s Morne Diablotin erupted, it was so powerful that the debris went as far as central America. These are just examples of possibilities we hope never happen in our lifetime. But happen someday they will. Its just the facts of the environment of the nature isle.
Yes, so Dominica is faced with many many serious natural threats. but we also have the threats and hazards associated by putting our heads under the sand. I wish we would all focus on strengthening what little we have in terms of educations, codes, disaster planning and mitigation and action plans. Whilst we are at it, let’s ensure that our new constructions also take this into account. I will highlight the modifications at Melville Hall airport for example. Even a minimal hurricane could cause severe damage to the new terminal. Let’s learn from the lessons of history and apply the technology and expertise that’s available to the benefit of all.
This headline is misleading.” Safety first”, in construction, means the protection of construction workers is top priority. We should probably stress “quality first”.