Haiti and Christchurch earthquakes - viewed through a resilience lens
Two powerful earthquakes of similar magnitude struck the Canterbury region of New Zealand as well as the Caribbean nation of Haiti within the space of a few months. Indeed, the experts maintain that the quake felt within Christchurch on September 4th, 2010 was a ‘mirror image’ of the Haitian quake of January 12th, 2010. However, still recovering from the impacts of the initial damage, a second quake struck Christchurch on February 22nd, 2011 albeit with a markedly different outcome than the first. Although both ‘geophysical agents’ were located near major population centres, a point of departure between the Haitian and Christchurch earthquakes is the differential outcome experienced by the impacted regions. Whilst the overall impact within Christchurch could be described as ‘extensive’, the impact within Haiti has been labeled as ‘catastrophic’.
This comparative case study contrasted the similarities and differences between these two disaster-affected regions. At a general level, this study attempts to provide insight as to how a comparable disaster agent can produce such divergent outcomes. By utilizing a ‘resilience lens’, it analyzes what factors affect the ‘bouncing back’ process within Haiti and Christchurch. That is, were these factors generated by the disaster agent, as a result of processes in existence before the earthquakes or both and to what extent? In order to guide the categories of data collection, the ‘SEBN model’ utilized by the Ministry of Civil Defence (MCDEM) within New Zealand, was applied. The results of this study indicate that whilst ‘traditional’ resilience is evidenced by daily living within Haiti, the overwhelming levels of vulnerability, coupled with ineffective governance, insecure land tenure as well as a lack of overall resources greatly affect a ‘bouncing back’. For Christchurch, the positive results of a proactive approach (such as emergency preparedness, stringent building codes, community education) are evidenced in relation to the forces generated by the earthquake. However, Christchurch is subject to issues on a different level to Haiti which affect its potential to bounce back. Chief amongst these are the constant after-shocks; land acquisition, psycho-social and business continuity issues.