One was planning for it, the other was unable to plan for it.
The earthquake in Haiti profoundly revealed the debilitating poverty that has gripped that country for years. The earthquake and tsunami in Chile revealed that despite the level of preparedness one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded can still claim hundreds of lives.
Growing up when I did my first real contact with earthquakes was in October of 1983 as I watched the pregame before Game 3 of the World Series between the A’s and the Giants. The 6.9 quake that lasted 15 seconds took the lives of several, damaged some bridges and delayed the game. I remember being strangely fascinated about the idea that large chunks of the earth were moving and bumping into each other. Soon thereafter talk of the “big one” happening any day and causing portions of California to fall into the ocean became the stuff of Discovery Channel specials.
The quake in Chile was about 500 times stronger than the one in Haiti or Northern California and it lasted three minutes. Most shocking to me was that it tilted the earth 3 inches. Enough energy was exerted that angle of the axis was changed and that our days are suddenly about a tenth of a millionth of a second shorter.
Our planet moved 3 inches.
In Haiti they are preparing for the rainy season. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced living in tents will soon have to worry about consistent rain from April to July. One of the first geographical characteristics that people notice about Haiti are the barren mountains. In an effort to make money the forests of Haiti were completely eradicated. No trees means no ground cover that depends on shade to thrive; no trees or ground cover means no root system. With no root system there is nothing to hold all that earth back when say it is saturated with rain.
What happens from July to October in Haiti? The Hurricane season.
Over the next few decades Haiti will struggle to recover, over the next few months the country will struggle to survive. With people in tent camps without access to clean drinking water or proper sanitation dysentery is a threat. Compounding this is the obvious threat of flash floods and land slides, but the real threat might be mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes carry malaria, among other things, and mosquitoes need standing water to reproduce. Malaria is treatable, but when untreated or combined with other health issues it can be a very efficient killer.
Earthquakes move people. Not just in the literal, localized sense but in the matters of empathy. No one can control an earthquake, no one can be blamed and when no one can shift the blame people respond. It has been encouraging to see how people are responded.
Five people from the church I serve with went to Port-au-Prince after the quake and served. What they walked away with was not the way the international community or Haitian government has or hasn’t responded; but by the faithful resiliency of the Haitian people. They were able to see the national day of prayer, and everywhere they went they heard, saw, and felt people worshiping God.
May we live like this.