Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Just Gets Worse

According to The CS Monitor, "The International Red Cross estimates as many as three million people may have been left homeless by Tuesday's earthquake in Haiti." And according to The Guardian, "Haiti's president tonight issued a desperate appeal for international aid following the earthquake that has devastated his country, as fears grew that the death toll could rise above 100,000." (Later in the same article, "Haitian senator Youri Latortue told the Associated Press that 500,000 might be dead. Both men admitted that they had no way of knowing.")

A quick Google tells me the estimated population of that country is 9.78 million. So we're talking about as much of 1 to 5% of the population killed outright, and roughly a third homeless. This is staggering.

I'm sure I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said, so here are a few pieces that have really stood out in my mind, in addition to the two in the first paragraph. The Big Picture has done an amazing job of putting together a gallery of heart-breaking photos in less than 24 hours. Chris Rowan of Highly Allochthonous has put together the touchstone of good geology reporting and described the regional structure of the area. I've had a couple of people recently ask me about the earthquake potential in the Caribbean and Central American area. This post is a good place to start, and a good supplemental map can be found at Lisbon Structural Geologist. Rob Steinberg at Shaking Earth points out that this really isn't a surprise to seismologists that have studied the area, quoting from and linking to a ScienceDaily report from five years ago. One I almost forgot, which was probably posted about 12 to 13 hours ago, was at Dave's Landslide Blog. Dave discusses typical patterns of media reporting in the aftermath of natural disasters, and points out, ominously- and accurately, as it turns out- that a lack of rapid, detailed news, is often very bad news. This piece is about Haiti in particular, but describes reporting patterns for these events more generally. I really recommend it to people who pay attention to disasters.

And of course, famous geologist Pat Robertson has his own unique explanation for the event:
[S]omething happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, “We will serve you if you get us free from the prince.” True story. And so the devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” They kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.
"Christians" like Robertson were the main reason I started seriously questioning my youthful faith.

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