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Japan Earthquake vs 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami vs Haiti Earthquake

The earthquake that hit Japan today was much, much stronger than the January 12 2010 earthquake that flattened much of Haiti.  8.8 (Japan) is several orders of magnitude stronger than 7.2 (Haiti).

But consider this: The Japan earthquake will likely result in a death toll in the several hundreds or thousands. The Haiti earthquake killed in the hundreds of thousands. The Japan earthquake will likely leave thousands of people homeless. The Haiti earthquake made millions of people homeless in an instant.

In other words, magnitudes of the strength of the two earthquakes are in inverse proportion to the magnitude of the damage they caused.  That’s what happens when a less powerful earthquake hits a country with a GDP that is a fraction of Japan’s (Haiti’s GDP is $6.495 billion vs Japan: $5.39 trillion).

Now, take a  look at the projected path of the Tsunami today:

And of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami

I did a quick, back of the envelope comparison of the average GDP’s of the countries listed in the both maps.  The average GDP of countries affected by today’s Tsunami is: 318,411,000 millions of dollars. Of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: 2,122, 539 millions of dollars.

Again, we are talking orders of magnitudes of difference.

So, while we rightly ought to remain very concerned about the earthquake today, chances are it will be far less destructive than recent terrible natural disasters. With a few exceptions, the most part, the countries that will be most affected by today’s destruction are rich enough to deal with it.


  • Nipsey ahustle33

    Baddass earthquake

  • Nipsey ahustle33

    Baddass earthquake

  • Kythelionskye

    Ummm…just think for a moment your statement of statistics. Japan is a strong country with a larger population than Haiti. Haiti people live in a more ghetto country. The magnitude doesn’t matter. It’s how prepared the government is and how independent the people are to help themselves and others. Japan is strong. They will need help but they don’t need to be babied like Haiti did. The only tsunami I was at was in Malaysia in 2004. I have photos of the worlds military, mainly Australia, the US, and Britain. The people loved us being there. But the govt wanted us out. Their govt didn’t even attempt to help their people until after we were there. Sound familiar? Yeah. Haiti and New Orleans.

  • LL1984

    The average GDP of countries affected by today’s Tsunami is: 2,122, 539 millions of dollars. Of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami: 318,411,000 millions of dollars.

    I don’t understand this part–is it the other way around?

    • Anonymous

      Fixed that. thanks.

  • Silk

    Terrific analysis – just goes to show one disaster like this affects many other areas of the world. We are THE world, hopeful ready to help as needed. Thank you UN for being there.

  • Silk

    Terrific analysis – just goes to show one disaster like this affects many other areas of the world. We are THE world, hopeful ready to help as needed. Thank you UN for being there.

  • http://twitter.com/Christraveler Chris Harris

    First NZ now Japan, This makes me worried and kind of makes me think about 2012.. Signs of things to come. Really scared indeed.
    http://goo.gl/0RfSq

  • DG

    I’ve written several analogies about the world having single people instead of countries (Japan is a person, Zimbabwe is a person, etc) and the different IQs of these people based on how the countries react to things. The fact that Japan, a country with a high “IQ”, is able to withstand an earthquake like this as well as it is makes me far, far, far more likely to want to donate to them.

    The Haiti situation will mean ‘wow, we donated… and years later, they’re still ‘devastated’. Japan, donate today, and in five years, this will be a thing of the past. The country itself will be like it never happened. The individual families who lost people will still cry five years later, but they will be back on their feet financially.

    • Quimange

      I agree. I mean, it sounds harsh, but I remember just a few months before the earthquake I was reading up on Haiti for a school project, and the thing that struck me is ‘wow, this country is a mess. I can’t imagine any amount of money donated to this country to could ever *begin* to fix it’s problems’.

      Then the earthquake happened, and I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort to donate, and I was right. The reason they’re still devastated isn’t from the earthquake, it’s just that people have trouble believing that that’s really Haiti’s status quo.

  • http://twitter.com/ejgoodrich Elizabeth Goodrich

    Great comparison article, thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/flemingnicole Nicole Fleming

    Rich enough and smart enough to prepare for it, I think might be more accurate. If the New Madrid Seismic Zone produced a 7.2 or higher earthquake tomorrow I suspect our death toll, while not as high as Haiti’s, could run into the tens of thousands. Simply because the US midwest is ill prepared for an earthquake when compared to Japan or the US west coast.

  • Nancy

    I’m tired of these arguments that basically state that Japan doesn’t need help because they’re rich. Haiti did not have a tsunami or potential nuclear disasters. The damage for Japan is obviously greater due to the magnitude of the quake. They are calling this the costliest natural disaster in history; therefore, they need our money more than Haiti did – common sense

  • http://twitter.com/f8vnz Philip Painter

    Tech issues: The Richter scale isn’t used any more. The new mag for the Japanese quake is 9.0.

  • SSW2011

    Great article. Although, I’m a little disappointed with some of these posts. Japan HAS to be prepared for quakes because of its geographic location. Quakes affect Japan more than any other country in the world! So, for some of these posts to place blame on Haiti for not being prepared is ignorant. As far as donating to Haiti is concerned, giving up on them simply because they were already living in poverty prior to their disaster is inhumane. I guess we can thank globalization and the affluent for that. My prayers go out to all PEOPLE affected by natural and man-made disasters.

  • Andysmma

    People should realize that while the magnitude the the quake that hit Japan was much stronger that the one that hit Haiti, Haiti’s earthquake was more dangerous and destructive. The reason is that it happened close to the earth’s surface. As a result its enery was concentrated in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding. I was hardly felt in the Dominican Republic if at all. Japan’s quake however happened deeply below the ocean floor. Its enery traveled far all the way to Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Remember the 1994 or 95 Kobe earthque which was a lesser magnitude did more structural damage to Japan. But of course Japan did escape scotch free because it of the resulting tsunami that happened in an area home to nuclear reactors.

    So do not compare orange with apples. Japan’s earthquake was stronger but deeper under ground and out at sea. Haiti’s was weaker but close to the surface with the country’s major city at its epicenter.

  • ThinkingDude

    This is from a yahoo article:
    “The Japan earthquake had a depth of 15.2 miles. The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, by comparison, had a magnitude of 7.0 and occurred at a depth of only about 8.1 miles….
    Earthquake depth often has a large correlation to damage done, and the closer to the surface an earthquake occurs, the more likely it is to create widespread damage, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara. In turn, the depth of the Chile earthquake produced a different effect and released less energy into the Pacific though it had a similar magnitude to the recent quake in Japan.”

    I am from Haiti. While I admit that laissez-faire is the norm it building construction, exempt the slums of Port-au-Prince they do build to last in Haiti. They build for solid reinforced concrete for hurricanes. Earthquakes have never been part of the equation hence reinforced concrete over steel beam. Remember that similar seismic activity happened over there there close to 250 years ago. Everyone I know from Haiti use to associate quake with California and Japan or China. But not with Haiti.

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