Haiti's 2010 earthquake: strike slip vs subduction

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Why didn't the earthquake cause a tsunami?

Strike-slips faults like the one that devastated Haiti don't generally cause tsunami, except for small local ripples. The Haiti earthquake was a horizontal motion. Tsunamis are caused by either an uplifting of the ocean floor, or by a huge chunk of land sliding into the ocean. Subduction-zone earthquakes raise the ocean bottom suddenly to push the water in tsunamis. 

The beach of a small fishing town was hit by a localised tsunami shortly after the earthquake, as a result of an underwater slide, At least three people were swept out to sea by the wave and were reported dead.

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  • The tectonic plates in Haiti are moving horizontally past one another.
  • The largest tsunamis are caused by vertical motion of the land.
  • Vertical rebound in subduction zones push the water up into a tsunami.

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In a strike-slip fault, the movement of blocks along a fault is horizontal. The fault motion of a strike-slip fault is caused by shearing forces. Other names: transcurrent fault, lateral fault, tear fault or wrench fault. Examples: San Andreas Fault, California; Anatolian Fault, Turkey.

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