Image: A collapsed building in Port-au-Prince is surveyed
Hans Deryk  /  Reuters / Hans Deryk
In this Jan. 17 photo, Haitians survey the damage to a building that collapsed onto a road in downtown Port-au-Prince.
updated 1/26/2010 7:09:22 PM ET 2010-01-27T00:09:22

The U.S. space agency NASA will send surveillance flights over Haiti and the Dominican Republic to look for signs that more earthquakes may hit the area after a giant quake that killed as many as 200,000 people two weeks ago.

The flights will use radar to look for changes in geologic faults on Hispaniola, the island that the two nations share, NASA said on Tuesday.

The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, or UAVSAR, used in the NASA surveillance flights was headed to Central America to survey forests anyway, and the flights would be extended to cover Hispaniola, the agency said.

"UAVSAR will allow us to image deformations of Earth's surface and other changes associated with post-Haiti earthquake geologic processes, such as aftershocks, earthquakes that might be triggered by the main earthquake farther down the fault line, and the potential for landslides," said Paul Lundgren of NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Because of Hispaniola's complex tectonic setting, there is an interest in determining if the earthquake in Haiti might trigger other earthquakes at some unknown point in the future," Lundgren added.

The equipment sends pulses of microwave energy from the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure subtle deformations such as those caused by earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides or glaciers.

JPL has been using the system since November to study California's huge San Andreas and other major faults.

The flight plan calls for multiple observations of the Hispaniola faults this week and in early to mid-February. Subsequent flights may be added based on events in Haiti and aircraft availability. After processing, NASA will make the imagery available to the public through JPL's UAVSAR Web site and the Alaska Satellite Facility Distributed Active Archive Center.

The initial data will be available in several weeks, NASA said.

This report was supplemented by

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