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Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology


The Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone is recognized as one of the primary plate-bounding fault systems in Haiti1,2. The strike-slip fault runs adjacent to the city of Port-au-Prince and was initially thought to be the source of the 12 January 2010, Mw 7.0 earthquake. Haiti experienced significant earthquakes in 1751 and 1770 (refs 3, 4, 5), but the role of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone in these earthquakes is poorly known. We use satellite imagery, aerial photography, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and field investigations to document Quaternary activity on the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault. We report late Quaternary, left-lateral offsets of up to 160 m, and a set of small offsets ranging from 1.3 to 3.3 m that we associate with one of the eighteenth century earthquakes. The size of the small offsets implies that the historical earthquake was larger than Mw 7.0, but probably smaller than Mw 7.6. We found no significant surface rupture associated with the 2010 earthquake. The lack of surface rupture, coupled with other seismologic, geologic and geodetic observations6,7, suggests that little, if any, accumulated strain was released on the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in the 2010 earthquake. These results confirm that the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault remains a significant seismic hazard.

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Figure 1: Tectonic setting of the 12 January 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Figure 2: EPGFZ in southern Haiti.
Figure 3: Surface fractures along the EPGFZ near Port Royal.
Figure 4: Locations of small, left-lateral offsets along the Momance section of the EPGFZ.
Figure 5: Detailed topographic survey of small stream offsets at the Jean–Jean site.


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We thank the Haitian Bureau of Mines and Energy, especially D. Anglade, for invaluable assistance. We are indebted to R. Boyer, R. Arbouet, Jr. and A. Chery for field assistance. We also thank L. Blair, R. Renaldo and N. Knepprath (USGS) for GIS support. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program provided funds for the USGS-USAID Earthquake Disaster Assistance Team (EDAT) to carry out this work. Financial support was also provided by the National Science Foundation (grant EAR1024990 to P.M.). UTIG contribution 2284. We thank S. Hough and M. Tuttle for helpful and constructive criticism of earlier versions of this manuscript.

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C.S.P. was responsible for writing the manuscript and generating most of the figures, with input from all authors. R.D.G. reduced the survey data collected by C.S.P. and A.J.C. to produce the map that appears in Fig. 5, and contributed substantially to Fig. 4b,c. C.S.P., R.D.G. and A.J.C. contributed to interpretation of survey data. C.S.P., R.D.G. and K.W.H. contributed text and figures to the Supplementary Information, which was coordinated by C.S.P. All authors collected data in the field and contributed to data analysis and synthesis.

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Correspondence to C. S. Prentice.

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Prentice, C., Mann, P., Crone, A. et al. Seismic hazard of the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault in Haiti inferred from palaeoseismology. Nature Geosci 3, 789–793 (2010).

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