Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake – Shock and Aftershock

The recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, according to the Red Cross, left between 45,000 and 50,000 dead and 300,000 homeless. The quake was the largest the island has suffered in more than 200 years and was felt as far away as Cuba. The devastation and the inevitability of future quakes have elevated interest in research that might ameliorate the effects of these catastrophic events. A quick survey shows that a great deal of work is in progress.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have performed laboratory simulations of an off-the-charts earthquake to test their new technique for bracing high-rise concrete buildings. The engineers used steel fiber-reinforced concrete to develop a better kind of coupling beam that requires less reinforcement and is easier to construct. Coupling beams connect the walls of high rises around openings such as doorways, windows and elevator shafts. These openings can weaken walls significantly.
The Michigan engineers envision that builders would cast this new type of beam off-site and then deliver quantities as they’re needed. Currently, builders construct the beams, steel skeletons and all, bit by bit, as they're building skyscrapers.
Other ongoing research at various locations around the world includes borehole geophysics and rock mechanics, crustal structure and deformation, earthquake geology, strong motion seismology.

The U.S. Geological Survey operates an earthquake hazards program that includes maps and real-time listings of earthquakes in the United States and around the world.

Helping Haiti

The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747 (due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording). Our embassy is still in the early stages of contacting American Citizens through our Warden Network. Communications are very difficult within Haiti at this time.

Private Offers of Assistance for Haiti Relief Efforts

Anyone wishing to donate or provide assistance in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck near Port au Prince on Jan 12, 2010, is asked to contact the Center for International Disaster Information.  The Center, operated under a grant from the United States Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and initial support from IBM, has become a valuable resource to the public, as well as US government agencies, foreign embassies and international corporations. CIDI has established a dedicated page to coordinate Haiti support at:

You can also text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill. Or you can go online to organizations like the Red Cross and Mercy Corps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.