Killer Quake Review: Is This Just The Beginning?

February 6, 2010 by  
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3quake300KILLER QUAKE – WHY IT HAPPENED: Saturday 6th February, Channel 4, 7.30pm ALERT ME

On 12 January 2010 an earthquake in Haiti claimed 200,000 lives and caused unimaginable devastation in capital city Port-au-Prince.

In this impromptu programme, experts speculate on the reasons for the huge scale of this disaster, whether it could have been prevented in the first place, and if it signals the start of a worrying pattern.

First on the scene is geologist Roger Bilham from the University of Colorado who surveys the damage in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. He digests the dazed faces, ruined buildings and talks of an “indescribable smell of death.”

Professor Paul Mann from the University of Texas is another part of a team of scientists investigating the reasons behind the quake. With the help of some swish computer graphics he explains that tectonic plates move a few inches every year to create immense pressure in certain areas – which is eventually released in the form of an earthquake.

The collision of the north and Caribbean plates which disrupted the Haiti landscape is what’s focused on here. Buzzwords like ‘strike slip faults’, ‘plate friction’ and ‘lateral spreading’ are explained as scientists generally avoid the humanitarian side of the vast destruction.

Earthquake patterns (the first hitting Port-au-Prince in 1751 and again in 1770) are worrying geologists who fear history may repeat itself. Bilham spends the rest of the doc searching for fault lines and evidence of surface rapture to calculate when this might happen.

With a quake magnitude of 7 (not especially large compared with others worldwide) why did the disaster cause so much damage? In this segment we learn in detail the alarming explanation of how Haiti buildings were ‘death traps’ – if built correctly, the large-scale devastation could have been prevented.

That geologists predict future eruptions, including a Tsunami in line with the Boxing Day 2004 tragedy should not be dismissed as ‘scaremongering,’ they say. The fact that eight of the world’s ten most populated cities lie on quake boundaries must not be ignored – the faster preventative measures are installed, the better.

“It’s like living on a time bomb,” says one scientist. After watching this documentary, you can see why.