Volunteer survey stations help assess the 2021 Haiti earthquake

A series of voluntary seismic stations helped gather more technical information about the earthquake that struck Haiti, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, in 2021. The region does not have many of its own seismic stations, which makes unrestricted analysis difficult. The data were from volunteers.

The initiative used inexpensive and easy-to-implement techniques: all the computing power for measurement was obtained, for example, through Raspberry Pi computers – the same devices that you can buy in any online store at very low prices.

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The 2021 earthquake in Haiti was one of the most notable natural disasters in history, but analysis of data on it comes from a network of volunteer citizens (Photo: arindambanerjee/)

The idea came from Eric Calais, a geologist and seismologist at the Cote d’Azur/Caribacte University in France. Along with a few colleagues, Calais used improvised seismometers installed in the homes of many Haitian citizens – near the epicenter and along its outcrop.

The idea was originally implemented in 2019 and turned out to be quite clever: thanks to the network of citizens surveyed, the authorities obtained data that allow them to base technical and predictive information about the event, such as the depth and spread of the tremor and the probability of subsequent shock quakes.

“This is an important example of the direct impact of citizen seismology on understanding the occurrence of a large and highly destructive earthquake, in the absence of conventional seismic stations near the event, underlining the added value of citizen earthquake response efforts,” says an excerpt from the newspaper signed from Calais and published in the journal Science.

The 2021 earthquake in Haiti was the largest that year – and the largest in the Caribbean nation’s history since a similar event in 2010. Its epicenter – the distance in depth – was 6.2 kilometers (km) and its appearance killed more than 2,200 people. people, injuring 12,200 others.

The earthquake left Haiti in dire need of global humanitarian assistance, and according to UNICEF, more than half a million children were directly and indirectly affected. The estimated financial impact was US$1.5 billion (R$7.55 billion) – more than 10% of the entire Haitian economy.

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