Why Does Haiti Have So Many Earthquakes? Two Dead and Hundreds Homeless After Back-to-Back Quakes

At least two people have died and more than 50 people have been injured after two earthquakes struck Haiti on Monday.

A pair of powerful back-to-back tremors hit the department of Nippes, on the Tiburon Peninsula, within the space of less than an hour, causing widespread destruction to homes in the area.

According to a report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a 5.4 magnitude quake struck at 8:20 a.m. local time, closely followed by a slightly heavier 5.6 magnitude quake at 9:06 a.m.

A man and a woman, whose names have not been released, died in Fonds-des-Nègres, after a consequent landslide and the collapse of a wall.

The report adds that the earthquakes caused injuries to 52 people, including 21 students who had to be admitted to the Sainte Thérèse Hospital in Miragoâne.

Seven of the students were unconscious, and three were described as being "in a state of shock."

About 190 houses were destroyed and more than 590 have been damaged, leaving 834 families homeless and in need of assistance.

All schools in Nippes and the neighboring Sud department have also been closed.

The quakes struck just days after Haiti marked 12 years since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 2010, which partially destroyed the capital Port-au-Prince, reportedly causing the deaths of at least 200,000 people.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Tiburon Peninsula less than six months ago, leaving at least 2,248 people dead and 12,763 people injured.

More than 137,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, and over half a million people were affected.

Haiti sits on the island of Hispaniola, which lies over four tectonic plates, according to the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.

These are the Caribbean Plate and the Gonâve, Hispaniola, and North Hispaniola microplates.

The Caribbean Plate is shifting eastwards by approximately 20mm (nearly 0.8 inch) each year relative to the larger North American plate, which borders the Caribbean Plate's northernmost edge and is itself gradually pushing southwest.

The constant friction between these plates in particular has created the Enriquillo–Plantain Garden fault zone, a system of faults that crisscross the southernmost parts of Hispaniola and frequently produce earthquakes.

The impact of the earthquakes combined with their frequency result in catastrophic damage.

According to the OCHA, many of the houses that were damaged and destroyed in the earthquakes that struck this week had already been "rendered weak by the 14 August earthquake" that struck in 2021.

Bulldozer clearing rubble after Haiti 2021 earthquake
A bulldozer clears the rubble of a building that collapsed in the 2021 earthquake in Haiti, on August 17, 2021. Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula was struck by a pair of earthquakes in quick succession on January 24, 2022. Reginald Louissaint Jr./AFP via Getty Images