Boston College Educational Seismology Project
The aftershocks from Haiti's 7.0-magnitude earthquake may persist for days and may include smaller temblors that cause more damage to crumbling buildings and pose a risk to rescuers searching for survivors, a Boston College quake expert said.
The aftershocks over the next couple of days could even include a 6.0-magnitude quake, said John Ebel, director of the college's Weston Observatory, which picked up the quake on its instruments at 4:53 p.m.
Ebel said 7.0-magnitude quakes are recorded about once a month somewhere on the globe, but the Haiti earthquake may have been a "recipe for disaster" because it hit at the edge of a very heavily populated area with poor construction.
Ebel said the people in Haiti would likely have heard a very sharp bang or loud noise and experienced 20 to 30 seconds of really violent shaking that gradually died away after two to three minutes.
Almost immediately, they would have started feeling aftershocks. He said the seismological observatory recorded a 5.9-magnitude aftershock within seven minutes after the main quake.
"The main shock finishes and a few minutes later, suddenly you're feeling another rolling motion," he said.
He said the aftershocks would pose a "major hazard to people going into damaged and unsteady buildings."
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