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A massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake has struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti.

Posted by alec8c on January 13, 2010

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Some of the videos may contain disturbing images

The extent of the devastation is still unclear but there are fears thousands of people may have died.

Haiti’s worst quake in two centuries hit south of the capital Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, wrecking the presidential palace, UN HQ and other buildings.

A “large number” of UN personnel were reported missing by the organisation. Many people have spent the night outside amid fears of more aftershocks.

The Red Cross says up to three million people have been affected.

Describing the earthquake as a “catastrophe”, Haiti’s envoy to the US said the cost of the damage could run into billions.

A number of nations, including the US, UK and Venezuela, are gearing up to send aid.

The quake, which struck about 15km (10 miles) south-west of Port-au-Prince, was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.

The tremor hit at 1653 (2153 GMT) on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said. Phone lines to the country failed shortly afterwards.

There is still no official word on casualties and the extent of the devastation is only now becoming clearer with dawn breaking.

China has already indicated in reports in state media that eight of its peacekeepers are buried and feared dead, with another 10 unaccounted for.

I think hundreds of casualties would be a serious understatement
Rachmani Domersant, operations manager, Food for the Poor

The AFP news agency quoted the Jordanian army as saying three of its peacekeepers had been killed and 21 wounded.

The Brazilian army said four of its peacekeepers were killed and a large number were missing.

A French official told AFP about 200 people were missing in the collapsed Hotel Montana, which is popular with tourists.

There have also been some reports of looting overnight.

Rachmani Domersant, an operations manager with the Food for the Poor charity, told Reuters that overnight the capital was in total darkness.

“You have thousands of people sitting in the streets with nowhere to go. There are people running, crying, screaming.

“People are trying to dig victims out with flashlights. I think hundreds of casualties would be a serious understatement.”

Earlier, bodies white with dust could be seen piled on the back of a pick-up truck as vehicles tried to ferry the injured to hospital.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and has suffered a number of recent disasters, including four hurricanes and storms in 2008 that killed hundreds.

‘Shouting and screaming’

In the minutes after the quake, Henry Bahn, a visiting official from the US Department of Agriculture, said he had seen houses which had tumbled into a ravine.

“Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken,” said Mr Bahn, who described the sky as “just grey with dust”.

He said he had been walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.

“I just held on and bounced across the wall,” he said. “I just heard a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance.”

Reports on the Twitter message site, which cannot yet be verified by the BBC, expressed the chaos in the wake of the quake.

Tweets from troylivesay spoke of the worst damage being in the Carrefour district, where “many two and three storey buildings did not make it”.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, a tsunami watch was put out for Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, but this was later lifted.

Help is on the way though!

“I US President Barack Obama said his “thoughts and prayers” were with the people of Haiti and that he expected “an aggressive, coordinated [aid] effort by the US government”.

Venezuela says it will send a 50-strong “humanitarian assistance team”.

The Red Cross is dispatching a relief team from Geneva and the UN’s World Food Programme is flying in two planes with emergency food aid.

The Inter-American Development Bank said it was immediately approving a $200,000 grant for emergency aid.

The UK said it was mobilising help and was “ready to provide whatever humanitarian assistance may be required”.

Canada, Australia, France and a number of Latin American nations have also said they are mobilising their aid response.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for a generous response to the “tragic situation” in Haiti.


One Response to “A massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake has struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti.”

  1. lindym said

    Shucks – you got there before me – thanks! Be really useful when we get around to look at coping with hazards

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