Breaking News: Haiti Struck 7.0 Earthquake Devastation Everywhere

Damaged Building in Port-au-Prince,Haiti (AP)

Haiti is reeling from a 7.0 Earthquake. The temblor struck Tuesday at 4:53 Atlantic Time near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capitol. Destroying or  heavily damaging buildings from shanty houses to the Presidential Palace effected. The dead and injured were laying in the streets as hospitals are damaged. Reporters for the Associated Press  based in Haiti witness the devastation say this was the strongest quake to the island nation in 200 years.

Thousand of people are gathered in the streets crying and singing hymns. Gravely injured people calling for doctors.

The number of dead and injured are unknown. The numbers of the homeless in Port-au-Prince   are in the tens of thousands as many homes became rubble after the quake and the subsequent aftershocks.

“The hospitals cannot handle all these victims,” said Louis-Gerard Gilles, a doctor and former senator, as he helped survivors. “Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together.”

In Petionville a upscale hillside neighborhood of Port-au-Prince  where many diplomats live;  a hospital was destroyed says a videographer with the AP heard screams of pain and cries for help.

The UN Peacekeeping force headquarters was heavily damaged in the quake and aftershocks says UN spokesman Alain Le Roi.

“Contacts with the U.N. on the ground have been severely hampered,” Le Roy said in a statement, adding: “For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for.”

Haitian President Rene Preval and his wife survived says Robert Manuel Haiti’s Ambassador to Mexico.

Karel Zelenka spokeman from the Catholic Relief Services in Port-au-Prince told US colleagues that ” there must be thousands of people dead,” according to a spokeswoman for the aid group, Sara Fajardo.

“He reported that it was just total disaster and chaos, that there were clouds of dust surrounding Port-au-Prince,” Fajardo said from the group’s offices in Maryland.

The temblor felt in the Dominican Republic no damage was reported. On the Island of Hispanola Haiti and  the Dominican Republic share a common border.  Residents of Santo Domingo the capitol of Dominican Republic was shaken but no damage.

The US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley says the US embassy is “literally in the dark” after the electricity failed.

A powerful earthquake struck Haiti’s capital on Tuesday with withering force, toppling everything from simple shacks to the ornate National Palace and the headquarters of UN peacekeepers. The dead and injured lay in the streets even as strong aftershocks rippled through the impoverished Caribbean country.

Associated Press journalists based in Port-au-Prince said the damage from the quake – the most powerful to hit Haiti in more than 200 years – is staggering even in a country accustomed to tragedy and disaster.

Women covered in dust crawled from the rubble wailing as others wandered through the streets holding hands. Thousands gathered in public squares late into the night, singing hymns. Many gravely injured people still sat in the streets early on Wednesday, pleading for doctors. With almost no emergency services to speak of, the survivors had few other options.

Thousands of buildings were damaged and destroyed throughout the city, and for hours after the quake the air was filled with a choking dust from the debris of fallen buildings.

The scope of the disaster remained unclear, and even a rough estimate of the number of casualties was impossible. But it was clear from a tour of the capital that tens of thousands of people had lost their homes and that many had perished. Many buildings in Haiti are flimsy and dangerous even under normal conditions.

“The hospitals cannot handle all these victims,” said Louis-Gerard Gilles, a doctor and former senator, as he helped survivors. “Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together.”

An Associated Press videographer saw a wrecked hospital where people screamed for help in Petionville, a hillside Port-au-Prince district that is home to many diplomats and wealthy Haitians as well as many poor people.

At a collapsed four-storey apartment building, a girl of about 16 stood atop a car, trying to peer inside as several men pulled at a foot sticking out in an attempt to extricate the body. She said her family was inside.

UN peacekeepers, most of whom are from Brazil, were trying to rescue survivors from their collapsed five-storey headquarters, but UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy said late on Tuesday that “as we speak no one has been rescued”.

“We know there will be casualties but we cannot give figures for the time being,” he said.

Many UN personnel were missing, he said, including mission chief Hedi Annabi, who was in the building when the quake struck. Some 9,000 peacekeepers have been in Haiti since a 2004 rebellion ousted the president.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said its embassy was destroyed and the ambassador hospitalised for undisclosed injuries.

The National Palace crumbled into itself, but Haiti’s ambassador to Mexico Robert Manuel said President Rene Preval and his wife survived the earthquake. He had no details.

The 7.0-magnitude quake struck at 4.53pm on Tuesday, centred 15km west of Port-au-Prince at a depth of 8km, the US Geological Survey said. USGS geophysicist Kristin Marano called it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in what is now Haiti. In 1946, a magnitude-8.1 quake struck the Dominican Republic and also shook Haiti, producing a tsunami that killed 1,790 people.

Map of Haiti and Dominican Republic (Reuters)

The temblor appeared to have occurred along a strike-slip fault, where one side of a vertical fault slips horizontally past the other, said earthquake expert Tom Jordan at the University of Southern California. The quake’s size and proximity to populated Port-au-Prince likely caused widespread casualties and structural damage, he said.

“It’s going to be a real killer,” he said. “Whenever something like this happens, you just hope for the best.”

Most of Haiti’s 9 million people are desperately poor, and after years of political instability the country has no real construction standards. In November 2008, following the collapse of a school in Petionville, the mayor of Port-au-Prince estimated about 60 per cent of the buildings were shoddily built and unsafe in normal circumstances.

Tuesday’s quake was felt in the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, and some panicked residents in the capital of Santo Domingo fled from their shaking homes. But no major damage was reported there. In eastern Cuba, houses shook but there were also no reports of significant damage.

The damage in Haiti was clearly vast.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley said in Washington that US Embassy personnel were “literally in the dark” after power failed.

“They reported structures down. They reported a lot of walls down. They did see a number of bodies in the street and on the sidewalk that had been hit by debris. So clearly, there’s going to be serious loss of life in this,” he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said from Hawaii the US will send assistance military and civilian to Haiti.

A Tsunami watch activated but later canceled for the Caribbean island nations including Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas.

“A destructive widespread tsunami threat does not exist based on historical earthquake and tsunami data,” the center said. “However, there is the possibility of a local tsunami that could affect coasts located usually no more than a 100 km (60 miles) from the earthquake epicenter.”

AP viaYahoo News

Sydney Morning Herald

Reuters

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