John R. Chapins "The Rush for our Lives over Randolph Street Bridge", an image of the Great Chicago Fire, Copyright expired.
When four square miles of Chicago burned to the ground in 1871, many were killed, but it also led to a massive redevelopment of the city that made Chicago among Americas mightiest centers. Further, the wisdom of insurance executives and reformers like Arthur C. Ducat reworked the laws so nothing like Chicagos fire would ever happen again.
A friend of mine who is a civil engineer pointed out that in Port-Au-Prince, a lot of the buildings were 10-stories. If you notice, in most parts of the world 10-story buildings aren't built, and the reason is resonance. If structures are built in a way to aid the natural vibrations of their material, then when severe winds or earthquakes hit them, their vibrations will be magnified to the point of destruction.
Quakes like the one that hit Haiti have hit many other parts of the world without causing that degree of damage. For instance, the 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake in San Fernando killed well under a 100 (out of a population of over 3.8 million affected) in the Los Angeles Area. Not a fair comparison, okay, but even in the third world, the 2009 Honduras Earthquake, out of three countries affected (further away, but 7.3 magnitude in scale) killed "at least 7." The difference is preparation.
Now, everybody feels sorry for Haiti, and a lot of people have been killed or made homeless, but Haiti is not helpless anymore then Chicago was. Sure, they're poor, but the world was poorer in 1871, and technology less sophisticated so wealth didn't even go as far when you did have it. If Haiti takes this opportunity to rebuild Port-Au-Prince, enact the right legislation, and make Haiti a great center of commerce and industry, they will cease being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps become among the wealthiest. If they do not, this WILL happen again, maybe next year, maybe the year after, just as many other disasters have routinely killed thousands in that country.
Now, in addition to preparing for future earthquakes, Haiti's transportation should review PAP's transportation systems to see if any improvements would be beneficial. They should also take an opportunity to, in order to raise money for reconstruction and provide work for those who need it, find large plots of relatively uncentral, but well-connected to railway, demolished land to sell to Industrialists, who can build up industry to bring Haiti in to a more prosperous future and provide better work for Haitians. Among other things, any good coastal land could be valuable for a shipyard.
If Haiti is open to construction of things, like nuclear plants and oil refineries, that are difficult to build in other nations, these private projects, built with private money, could bring Haiti a high-level of prosperity. If it cuts down on its corruption, much of the benefit could go to the Haitian working man. In particular, Haiti, if it gets on the ball, could end up reprocessing America's nuclear waste and selling it back to us, since our own government has already shot us in the foot on nuclear waste disposal and reprocessing. This would provide good work for the average Haitian at a high-profit margin, which helps gear a countries working people to higher standards of living by making it possible for them to be paid better. After all, no worker can be made more then he makes for his business, and most will be paid well less.
There's only one nuclear reactor shell foundry in the world night, Haiti would really reduce the price of nuclear energy if they built a second, and they would be among the largest beneficiaries (and benefactors.)
I hope the Haitian government will take this as an opportunity to learn, and if they don't I hope the Haitians will find a chance to ask for a new government, perhaps prepare a very special bowl of chili for the starving...