The Belize Times
What if it happens to us? Like the rest of the world Belizeans watched in horror as the death toll continued to rise in Haiti after the devastating earthquake. For those who were riveted to their television sets watching it all on MSNBC or on CNN the sight was almost too much to bear. In Haiti, 250,000 people lost their lives and damages are estimated to be around US$13 billion. Last weekend it happened again, this time in Chile and once again the initial body count was modest and then started to climb. To date 730 are reported dead in Chile, but that number could rise as Chile continues to dig out from under the rubble. While Chile has asked the United Nations and the US for assistance, their economic situation is such that with some assistance, that nation will soon be back on its feet, while for Haiti, the opposite is true. Earthquakes occur along the fault lines when the plates slide past each other or collide against each other. Earthquakes cause great damage including the collapse of buildings and other man-made structures, broken power lines--which could also result in fire. Earthquakes can also cause landslides and tsunamis.
southern part of the country, can be affected by an earthquake and if this should occur, the damage could be devastating. How prepared would Belize be if an earthquake should strike close enough to create serious damage and loss of life? In the Ministry of National Emergency, plans and contingencies are in place to deal with natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding; currently NEMO is reviewing and updating its earthquake plans. During the Haiti earthquake it was clear that the lack of heavy equipment and machinery added to their inability to rescue people trapped under the rubble. This resulted in a higher death toll. Comparing the damage to buildings in Haiti with buildings in Chile it was clear that there was less damage to the structures in Chile because of building standards. In Belize homeowners are advised to construct buildings capable of withstanding 100 mile an hour winds; however the issue of earthquakes has not been considered in the construction of structures in Belize. Therefore, an earthquake the magnitude of the one that hit Haiti would cause tremendous damage to infrastructure.
Since Central America serves as an isthmus between North and South America, two continental land masses, disturbances in these two areas have an effect on activities in Central America. In the case of Belize, the Caribbean platform, the one that caused the earthquake in Haiti, runs just south of Toledo. Many Belizeans will recall last Mayâ€™s earthquake, which toppled a water tank as well as damaged peopleâ€™s homes in southern Belize. That an earthquake could affect Belize, resulting in serious damage is no longer a matter for speculation. Belize, especially the
Unlike hurricanes, an earthquake comes without warning. It occurs for short periods of time but can result in tremendous loss of life and can cause destruction in the billions. Given the possibility that an earthquake can strike close enough to Belize to cause loss of life and serious destruction of property, government should include emergency management in the event of an earthquake or worse, a tsunami in their plans. First there is a need to identify areas where infrastructure must be built to codes that will, as much as possible, minimize destruction in the event of an earthquake. Emergency planners must prepare information and design plans for evacuation and for moving of supplies and heavy equipment in and out of the disaster area. More important, Belizeans must be educated about what to do in the event of an earthquake. In the past week over 100 tremors were reported in this area. Earthquakes have occurred in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. It is foolhardy to think it cannot happen in Belize. When it does, planning and preparation will determine how many lives are spared and how many will be lost.
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sunday, march 7, 2010
Belize Times Newspaper for March 7, 2010