Destructive Plate Boundary Volcano Case Study

Case study: earthquake

Haiti is part of a large Caribbean island called Hispaniola. The Dominican Republic is located to the east of Haiti and covers over half of the island.

Cause of the earthquake

Haiti lies right on the boundary [boundary: The region where two or more tectonic plates meet. It is a zone of intense seismic activity. ]  of the Caribbean and North American plates. There was slippage along a conservative plate boundary [conservative plate boundary: Areas between two crustal plates that are moving past each other in opposite directions or at different speeds. ]  that runs through Haiti.

On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti at 16:53 local time. The earthquake’s epicentre was 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Most people, businesses and services were located in the capital.

Social impacts of the earthquake (effects on people)

  • 3 million people affected.

  • Over 220,000 deaths.

  • 300,000 injured.

  • 1.3 million made homeless.

  • Several hospitals collapsed.

Economic impacts of the earthquake (effects on money and jobs)

  • 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed.

  • Businesses destroyed.

  • Damage to the main clothing industry.

  • Airport and port damaged.

Many of the effects were immediate or primary, eg injuries from falling buildings. Some secondary effects didn’t happen until many months later, eg cholera outbreaks. The effects of this earthquake were particularly bad because of the following reasons:

  • There were very few earthquake-resistant buildings.

  • Buildings and other structures were poorly built.

  • The epicentre [epicentre: The point on the Earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. ]  was near to the capital.

  • There were few resources to rescue or treat injured people.

Response to the earthquake

Haiti is a very poor country without the money and resources [resource: Anything that is useful to people. ]  to redevelop. It is one of the least developed countries in the world with most Haitians living on $2 or less per day, about £1.30.

Because there were few earthquake-resistant buildings [earthquake resistant buildings: Building designs which help to minimise the effect of earthquakes.] , the devastation was massive. Many buildings simply collapsed or were damaged beyond repair.

Primary responses

  • Neighbouring Dominican Republic provided emergency water and medical supplies as well as heavy machinery to help with search and rescue underneath the rubble, but most people were left to dig through the rubble by hand.

  • Emergency rescue teams arrived from a number of countries, eg Iceland.

  • Medical teams began treating the injured – temporary field hospitals were set up by organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross.

  • GIS [GIS: Geographical Information System. Electronic maps with layers added to display information about the area.]  was used to provide satellite images and maps of the area, to assist aid organisations.

  • People from around the world watched the news from Haiti on TV and through social networks. Many pledged money over their mobile phones.

  • United Nations troops and police were sent to help distribute aid [aid: The giving of resources or money from one country or donor to another.]  and keep order.

Secondary responses

  • Money was pledged by organisations and governments to assist in rebuilding, but only slow progress had been made after one year.

  • After one year, there were still 1,300 camps.

  • ‘Cash for work’ programs are paying Haitians to clear rubble.

  • Small farmers are being supported – so crops can be grown.

  • Schools are being rebuilt.


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Mount Merapi is located in South East Asia in the country of Indonesia.  It is North of Yogyakarta and West of Solo on the island of Java.  It is 1,700m high and has been erupting regularly since the 1500s.


Image courtesy of

The volcano and its eruptions were caused by the Indo-Australian Plate being subducted beneath the Eurasian Plate.  The volcano is located on a destructive plate margin at a subduction zone and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.


Primary (caused directly by the volcano)

Secondary (result from primary effects)

Volcanic bombs and hot gases of up to 800°C spread over 11km awayVegetable prices increased because of the damage to crops
Pyroclastic flows spread 3km down the mountainEmergency shelters had to be moved over 15km away
Ash fell up to 30km away and 5km into the sky.  15km away, villages were under 30cm of ashDanger area extended to 20km from the mountain and 278,000 people living in this area had to flee their homes
Sulphur Dioxide was blown across Indonesia and as far South as AustraliaPlanes were grounded in Western Australia because of the risk of damage to aircraft from the ash cloud
Ash, rock and lava deposited on the sides of the volcano is still being washed down into towns by rainfall creating lahar (a mudflow that often flows along river valleys)




Ash from the volcano will eventually lead to more fertile soils in the area273 people were killed and 577 people were injured
A conservation area has been set up around the volcano where it is unsafe to liveThe evacuation centres were overcrowded leading to poor sanitation, no privacy and serious disease risk
People, particularly farmers, lost their homes and livelihoods
360,000 people were displaced from their homes


Short Term

Long Term

210 evacuation centres were set up either as tents, in schools, churches, stadiums or government officesFormal evacuation centres were eventually set up because buildings, such as schools and government offices, were needed for their official uses
1,600 people, either volunteers or military, were part of the national aid response2,682 people have had to be moved to new, safer houses permanently
International aid was offered from organisations such as the Red CrossThe government is making money available to farmers to help replace their livestock
The government has set up a special task force to support people that have been affected by the volcano either by family issues, or because they have lost their jobs


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