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Haiti Quake Was Disaster Waiting to Happen

A massive earthquake devastated Haiti Tuesday, but scientists warned of such an event back in 2008.

Back at the 18th Caribbean Geological Conference in March 2008, five scientists warned the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault zone presented a "a major seismic hazard" to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which share the island of Hispaniola.

Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude quake occurred along that same fault line.

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"We were concerned about it," Paul Mann, one of the paper's authors and a senior research scientist at the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics, told CNN.

"The problem with these kinds of strikes is that they can remain quiescent - dormant - for hundreds of years. So it's hard to predict when they'll occur."

The quake struck at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday, centered just 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of only 5 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti.

"Closeness to the surface is a major factor contributing to the severity of ground shaking caused by an earthquake of any given magnitude," Dr. David Rothery, a planetary scientist with in the U.K., told the BBC.

Haiti's lack of real construction standards - a byproduct of the country's widespread poverty and political instability - have only exacerbated the inevitable disaster's effects.

"Because the earthquake was so close to the capital city, because the city is so populated and because the country is so poor - the houses are not well-built - it could cause significant casualties," Jian Lin, one of the geologists who co-authored the 2008 paper, told CNN.

In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 percent of buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

Complete Coverage:

Massive Quake Devastates Haiti's Capital
Red Cross: 3M Haitians Affected by Quake
U.N. Mission Chief in Haiti Feared Dead
U.S. Haitians Desperate to Contact Kin
Haiti Quake: An Eyewitness Account
Quake a "Catastrophe of Major Proportions"
Watch: Haiti Ambassador on Disaster
Watch: Haiti Earthquake Victim Describes Scene
Obama: U.S. Stands Ready to Help Haiti
USGS: Summary of Haiti Quake's Danger Level
Haitian Earthquake Photos
U.N. Headquarters Destroyed in Haiti

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