Days after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit southwest Haiti, killing at least 1,941 people and injuring more than 9,000 people, smaller earthquakes known as aftershocks continue to occur in the area. In total, 22 aftershocks have taken place since Saturday, ranging from magnitudes of 4.0 to 5.8, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The majority of the aftershocks occurred the day of the largest earthquake and have progressively decreased. Today, a sole aftershock occurred at 4:47 p.m. about seven miles northeast of Saint-Louis-du-Sud, one of the cities closest to the epicenter of Saturday’s earthquake.
The USGS continues updating its site daily about the earthquake and predictions for future impact.
“Larger aftershocks could cause additional damage, especially in weakened structures,” according to the most recent USGS bulletin issued Wednesday. Several magnitude 5 and larger aftershocks have occurred already, and it is likely that there will be more earthquakes of this size over the next week, month, and beyond, the geological body said.
Aftershocks, which are caused when unstable rock around the fault line adjusts after a major earthquake, can trigger additional destruction like landslides, which the USGS predicts will continue to happen.
Satellite imagery from NASA shows that the landslides are primarily occurring in sparsely populated areas, but experts are still concerned, particularly with the heavy rain unleashed yesterday by Tropical Depression Grace.
“Debris and rock already mobilized by the earthquake may be transported by flash flooding as devastating debris flows,” said landslide expert Robert Emberson in a press release from NASA. “The material is mostly at the base of hills currently, but rivers quickly filled by rain could push that downstream and cause severe impacts to communities living farther from the location of the landslides.”
Scientists are already predicting increasingly hazardous conditions where more residents will need to evacuate to shelters, especially if additional aftershocks continue to occur.
The USGS cautions anyone experiencing an aftershock to head to open places away from walls and electric poles, which could potentially fall as a result.